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Re: Origin and meaning of my surname?

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Posted by M. H. Yee ( on July 17, 2004 at 15:24:28:

In Reply to: Origin and meaning of my surname? posted by fabrice sam-lock on July 09, 2004 at 18:20:03:

In Stephen H, Chang's The Chinese Around the World (1973), there is a section about Reunion (pp.86-109) which offers a brief history of the Island, its Chinese population, and a selective series of biographies that are in both English and Chinese. He states" Approxiamately 68% of the Chinese on the Island are Hakka" (p.88). As well, when surveying the biographies, many of the Chinese seem to be Hakkas from Mei Xian, with a fair number of Cantonese from Shunde (both places are in Guangdong province). However, rarely do the Englsih surnames correspond exactly with a Chinese equivelent. For instance, in one biography, a family name of Ah-sing is given in English but with one of
Hou in the corresponding Chinese biography. Interestingly, this "new" surname is the same as that of the business. Still, other surnames have in some way tried to encorporate the Chinese original, such as Lawson--in the Chinese biography the surname is Liu/Law. Moreover, there seems to be a French influence in romanization with, for example, the family name of Chane-Hives; the Chane corresponding to the Chinese name of Chen/Chan. And finally, there are those surnames that follow a direct correspondance such as Tsang for Zeng.
Keeping all of this in mind, I hazzard two possible hypotheses:
1.) The "new" family name may have been taken as a romanized version of the personal name of the immigrant ancestor. So, you may wish to refer to your father's or grandfather's name. Since I suspect that this is a Cantonese pronunciation and if it is a personal name, the Sam may stand for San/"three" or Xin/"heart" and the Lock as possibly Lo/"Joy or a song". To look for the original Chinse name in full consult a tombestone as often these are bilingual.
2.) Following what seems to be a trend in naming practices of the Reunion Chinese, it is likely that there has been a conscious effort to encorporate the orginal Chinese surname at the first syllable of the "new" surname or before the hyphen (the exception being those family names prefixed with Ah). If this is the case then Sam would be the Chinese surname. If Sam is the surname, there are two possible Chinese ones that have a Cantonese pronunciation of /sam/: a) Chen/Shen meaning "a surname" and has the radical for mountain, and b) Chen/Shen meaning "Deep or to sink".

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