The surname STEINBOCK was a Swedish topographic name for someone who lived either on stony ground or by a notable outcrop of rock or a stone boundary-marker or monument or one who came from STEINBECK, the name of several places in Sweden and Germany. It was also found as an occupational name for someone who worked in stone, a mason or stone cutter. The name is also spelt STEINBECK, STENBACK, STENHOLM and STENSTROM. Many of the modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identify individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today. In the 17th century, so-called 'soldiers' names are found as the earliest kind of hereditary surnames in Sweden. These names were derived from vocabulary words, usually martial-sounding monosyllables such as Rapp (prompt) Rask (bold), or occasionally names of animals and birds. The names were bestowed on soldiers for administrative purposes, and no doubt in some cases derived from pre-existing nicknames. The Swedes have in recent times combined two words together to manufacture family names to take the place of their common patronymics, terminating in - SON. These words are not just any words, but are usually nature words combined for easy pronunciation. This custom has been actively encouraged by the Swedish government and there are some 56,000 combinations of the variants. A notable member of the name was John Ernest STEINBECK (1902-68) the American novelist, born in Salinas, California. 'Tortilla Flat' (1935) his first novel of repute, is a faithfull picture of the shifting 'paisanos' of California. 'The Grapes of Wrath' (1939) is a study of the poor in the face of disaster and threatened disintegration. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1962. Most Swedes did not adopt hereditary surnames until a century or more later, and the patronymic system was still in use in rural areas until late in the 19th century. In the absence of evidence to the contrary it is thought that people may have adopted their surname from the area in which they lived.
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