Monday, December 7, 2009


According to Wikipedia, in Europe, surnames began to be used in the 12th century, but it took several centuries before the majority of Europeans had one. The primary purpose of the surname was to further distinguish people from one another. In the 13th century about a third of the male population was named William, Richard or John. To uniquely identify them, people began referring to different Williams as William the son of Andrew (leading to Anderson), William the cook (leading to Cook), William from the river (leading to Rivers), William the brown-haired (leading to Brown), and so on. Eventually these surnames became inherited, being passed from parents to children. 

So how did I come to have Grove as a surname?  My research shows that the Grove surname I have inheirited began in Germany or Switzerland as Graff.  It appears my original ancestors modified it slightly perhaps due to the Great Vowel Shift and after emigrating to the new world the spelling became Groff.  For several generations they continued it's use.   For some reason my 5th great grandfather, John Groff, had a son, Jacob, who was born in Lancaster Co. PA in 1737 and the surname was recorded as Grove.   Not sure why this shift occurred but it seems to have happened in several branches of the family tree not just mine.  Nevertheless, genealogists continue to recognize Graff, Groff, and Grove, and Groves as a linked surname.

Through my life the Grove surname was very easy to communicate since grove is a common noun in English.  At times people have misunderstood it to be Grover or Groves.  Overall, it's been an easy surname to spell and pronounce.

My father, John Virgil Grove (1925-1991) had more trouble however.  His Illinois birth certificate incorrectly lists his last name as Groves.  An error acknowleged by both his parents but never corrected officially.  He grew up in Parker, Kansas where the Grove family had roots so he didn't find any problems until leaving Parker for Wichita and enlisting in the Merchant Marines in 1943.  At this point he was forced to assume the surname "Groves" due to the birth certificate error and hence his military career was under the name of John Virgil Groves.  He made sure his children had correct spellings on their birth certificates and Grove prevailed.