Way Back Wednesday: F is for Father-in-law

July 21, 2016

This can be a fact which can have a large impact on your Surname Study.  The term 'father-in-law' as we understand it today means the father of your spouse.  However, in earlier years this meant your stepfather.  If the father of the family died, and his widow remarried, the new spouse was often called 'father-in-law' to the children.  (It also applies to 'mother-in-law'.)  Today we would call him 'stepfather'.  Don't keep searching for a mysterious spouse if you see a child of eight called a 'son-in-law', either.  He is more probably a 'stepson'.  (This also applies to 'stepdaughters' as well.)

And just to confuse matters completely: what today we would call a 'father-in-law', meaning the spouse's father, is often referred to simply as 'father'.  Bewildered? You should be!  Forewarned? You have been!

Next week's letter is 'G'. Has anybody got any interesting snippets that marry up G with surname studies?  If so, please send them to me at sos [at] surname-society.org

© Ros Haywood
School of Surnames

letter F courtesy of openclipart.org

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