What’s in a Surname, anyway?


Roots seek their path through the ground of where they are nestled, marking generations of their families, expanding with the seasons and taking their time over the decades. They wander blindly but knowingly in search of water and sustenance, robbing the earth’s soil of her nutrients with an undeniable quest for growth.

I was born a Chadwick, the DNA evident through my green eyes, light brown hair with a cowlicked plume of honey streaks just above my right eye. There’s a chance I will discover my roots I’ve trampled on but never realized how underfoot they really were. So, what’s in my surname, anyway?

It is rare that I find my last name being used by others, and when I do discover the multi-use, I wonder how many others are claiming the Chadwick name. Chadwick’s of Boston (women’s clothing), Chadwick Restaurant of Beverly Hills, Sir James Chadwick, physicist, The Chadwick Hotel, St. Anne’s; Chadwick, Illinois. I confess a penchant for clothing, culinary arts, and hotel management but I don’t know how a woman’s clothing catalogue, a restaurant, a physicist and a hotel have come to have my name.

Even though my bloodline can be traced back to the 1800’s in England, I wonder about the origin of “Chadwick” and if my ancestors came from royal blood.  The genealogy goes back to the tenth century and is believed to be of Saxon origin.  It is derived from a powerful chief, Chedde. The last part of the name “wick” means fort or residence. So when I put it together – “fort of Chad-Chedde,”  I’d like to think there was a mystical place in the rambling green gem hills in rural England  called Fort Chad that became a gathering hot spot for aristocrats and perhaps anyone who identified as being from there was a “Chadwick.” I must also consider an original spelling of the surname could exist as I learn surviving records from the fourteenth century tell of a Nicholas de Chadwyke who lived in Lancashire at the time of King Edward III, circa 1350.

The Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California was founded by a Margaret Chadwick in 1935. Does my pull toward California and my few years of living there have anything to do with the Chadwicks of California?  James Chadwick proved the existence of neutrons in 1932 and won the Nobel Laureate prize in physics. He lived in Wales . . . I spent a day there. I can say, without a doubt, that any attraction or admiration I have to physics or science is remote. There is also a Chadwick investment group that perhaps was started by someone with my last name, or whoever started the business saw the name “Chadwick” somewhere and decided it would be a nice sounding name for an investment group. And then there is Alan Chadwick, a famous proponent of organic gardening and founder of biodynamic French intensive school of horticulture. I’ll take organic harvests wherever and whenever I can get them. But perhaps the most eye-catching Chadwick I came across is Eduardo Chadwick. His family tree extends back to Don Maximiano Errazuriz, who in 1870 founded the winery, Vinedo Chadwick, that Eduardo now owns in Chile. A Chilean Englishman or is it an English Chilean? I’m excited to think that somewhere there’s a wine bottle with my last name on the label. I’ve become determined to find it, hoping the bloodlines run thick through my veins, pumping the Chadwick blood all the way down the line for I do fancy the fruit the vine.  John Chadwick (1920-1998) was a linguistic discoverer and William Chadwick (1879-1962) was an American Impressionist.  I find myself curious about languages other than my own when I travel abroad. William died the same year I was born.

But my call is my own to find out just who I am, how I got here and what my contribution is to the world. I may hope there is a little Sir James in me, somewhere from way back or perhaps even a dash of royal blood. But for me now, in this century, my roots remain as daughter of Tom and Arlene, brother of Timothy Hugh with my own undeniable quest for growth.

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