Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (5 September 2017, 14 Elul, 5777)
Is the first or second one the most important in a double barrel surname?
The family of my father lived in Wales, in Pembroke. Their surname was Russell-Davis. Where and how they got this name from I do not know. That is another story since their male progenitor probably came from the region of Oriel in northern Catholic Ireland. Anyway, "Davis" was considered the real family name. They may have used the form "Russell-Davis" for both social and practical reasons. Socially they were considered part of the upper middle-class or its equivalent and double-barreled surnames were acceptable. On the practical level there were very many people named "Davis" in that part of Wales were they lived. Using a double-surname made self-defining easier. Later the family moved to Australia.
In Australia double-barreled names were considered snobbish. You needed real money in order to carry them and even then it would not have been easy. My father then reverted to the name "Davis" as a surname and gave each of his sons the name "Russell" as a middle Christian name. The name "Russell" is Norman French and means "Little Red." The cognomen "Davis" is short for Davidson or "Son of David." Later I came to Israel and learned Hebrew. I found that King David in the Hebrew Bible was referred to as both "The Little One" (Hebrew "Ha-Katan," 1-Samuel 17:14) and as "Red" (Hebrew "Admoni," 1-Samuel 16:12). The surname "Russell-Davis" could therefore be understood to mean "Son of Little Red David." When I was young this idea had some occasional interest for me. Later I grew out of it, or at least hope I have. Much later I legally changed the name "Davis" to its Hebrew equivalent. I did however still use the name Russell-Davis for a publishing company I founded.