n Part I of The History of Identity, we covered how identity began in ancient times. For Part II, we focus on current times, where personal names are now considered fundamental to identity and dignity.
The emergence of family names
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that every child “shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name.” Family names or surnames identify a person’s origins. Family names appear to have developed first in China, originally among the nobility, and then spread to commoners.
Clan names that seem to indicate matrilineal heritage, called…