Sunday, October 26, 2003

Origin of the Name Kaulins


The Origin of the family name KAULINS is unknown. It is a Baltic name from Latvia.

It is generally accepted that the root word for the surname "KAULINS" is the word "KAUL" and that the ending -INS is simply diminutive form.

However, this simplistic assumption ignores the fact that the surname KAUL is common in Germany and is rare in Latvia, so why would there be a diminutive form of an otherwise virtually non-existant surname root?

In Germany, one also finds the variant surnames KAULEN and KAULIN. Variant spellings may be found in the surnames KOLLINS, KOLLIN, COLLINS, COLLIN, COLIN, CEAWLIN, CALAHAN and O'CALAHAN.

In France you have the surname CHAULIN, CHOLIN whence "Clos des Chaulins", a famous Medot champagne.

Genealogists include the surnames CAUL, CALL, KALL, MCCALL, von KAEUEL, KAIL, CAIL, KAHL and KOHL in their research on the surname KAUL, and there are of course many other possibilities.

Are all these names actually related in origin? Probably not in all cases. Surely not in many cases.
DNA will ultimately give us a better answer.

There have been many speculations about the origins of the surname Kaulins in Latvian, based on lexical analysis of the root word "kaul" in Latvian which means "bone", but in ancient times also applied to "relatives" or "ancestors", in the sense of "the old bones". Kaul as a word in German has also been found substituted for KEULE meaning "club", and some clubs in ancient days were made of animal bones.

In Latvian modern usage, "kaulins" as a word can mean a stone, a kernel, a die (domino, dice), or a draught. A stone of an abacus is also called a kaulins, plural KAULINI. These in ancient days were also made of e.g. bones or ivory.

KAULINI in turn also applies to the rapids of a river (based on the stones which cause them). Since my ancestral family on my father's side stems from the region of rapids near the origin of the River Gauja (called the Livonian Aa in German), this is also possible as an explanation.

There is also evidence of a consonantal shift in Indo-European between S//K//H, so that the root words SAUL, GAUL, KAUL and HAUL may be related, SAUL(e) meaning SUN, i.e. English SOL, viz. the permutated HELios. Perhaps the name applied to sun-worshippers, or horsemen, since German GAUL is "horse" but in the sense of "old horse", i.e. "old bones". It is interesting how German GAUL gives us the same basic word connection here, even though it applies to horses.

The only literary mention of KAULINS in the Endzelins-Muehlenbachs historical dictionary of the Latvian language is an ancient phrase stating that "when the great Kaulinses came in, the rest could be seated" [ I did not make that up].

There is a sensible explanation for this ancient phrase. It would mean, when "the old bones" came in, i.e. the elders, the remainder of the community could take their place. So that here KAULINI could simply mean "elders", with interesting possible connections then to the COHENS (the letter L has been lost), the wise men of old, i.e. the term "COHEN" as rooted in the idea of "old bones" much as our modern SENATE is based on an Indo-European term SEN- as in Latvian SEN- meaning "old", i.e. a group of elders. KAULINS then may have been the Latvian term for their ancient priests.

Whatever the case may be, we will look at the lives of some people who have had these surnames and discuss further various of the theories about the origin of this family name.

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