Wouldn’t it be nice to see a list of all Surnames from around the world? Yes, that would be amazing to have in one’s possession. Let’s take this one step further and add to this list the Origin of each Surname, even more fantastic. Okay, a person can dream!
This topic has been a challenge researching that there are not as many resources to work with as I would have liked. But, I have found some excellent information that I know you are going to love.
In this article, we will attempt to sort out the different information discovered during the research. We will find out what there is in the online world to assist us in Search Last Name Origin.
Finding Surname Origin
The search began with finding some promising leads with a few popular websites. When searching surname origins, what I found after entering the Surname, was a map of different world locations where the name existed, which means there were genealogical records found with the Surname. That is great, but we can achieve the same results by performing a standard name search to find these documents.
Another site showed an extensive list of names with similar results. A map showing the locations where research records exist for the surname search results is a beautiful find. I found other sites using the map to trace the name(s) used in different documents, primarily Census records and the Passenger list.
The maps mentioned above are great tools; they help us to follow the immigration or migration of the Surname in question and let us know in what countries these records exist. A couple of sites did suggest the origin of a few surnames, which is what we are looking for, but they are generic or famous names.
So if you are interested, you could check out Find My Past UK and Geneanet. They provide the information I alluded to before; they show map locations, plus from the records collected, they also graph out the percentage of different occupations. There are a couple more sites with the same results.
The Surnames that I used were the same for each site. They claim to have surname meanings, but three of my surname meanings showed results as not found. However, I was not expecting to see a complete list of surname origins or meanings among various websites, in all fairness.
Difference between Surname Origin and Meaning
As you are probably well aware, there is a difference between a Surname origin and Surname meaning.
Surname Origin refers to a location the name was initially found to exist. Surname Meanings were derived from the last name’s ancestors, as they chose the name based on various factors. They might describe the unique family’s status in the communities they lived in, to name one.
Now that we have drawn attention to the difference between surname origin and surname meaning. How is the background different?
Names were chosen based on various factors in the family’s lives, location, occupation, or to distinguish the family’s status from another family of a similar name. In essence, meaning and origin played a factor in the surnames selection process.
Massive Book of Surnames
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a book that contained all the Surnames in the world and the history of their creation then follow the changes that accrued over the generations? That would be a mighty, big book.
Some professional genealogists specialize in various last names and can tell us the names’ history and variants in their specialty. I enjoy reading these types of publications. It is a gem to find one of these articles that focuses on an ancestor in your tree. To see how and why the name changed over the generations is fascinating.
Here is another find in my research on this topic. At the same time, searching Ancestry.com and using the same surnames as during the previous searches. I found Origins for two names with an explanation and several variations to both names. We will look at the source of those Name Origin Meanings in just a moment.
Here is what our search page looked like in Ancestry:
- Name Meaning:
- Results mentioned above
- Ready to discover your family story?:
- This section is for searching the available records; it opens another search page.
- Family Origin: Where is the family From?:
- Here we see a US map with the different color-coded areas the family lived and the number residing during each of the three census years.
- A slider is provided to see the numbers for each census.
- If you scroll over each state, it will give you the number of families found.
- Also, there is an explanation below the map of where the families moved from 1840, 1880, 1920.
- Family Occupations: What did your ancestors do for a living?
- This section shows the US census % of different occupations.
- Also, it toggles to England and shows % of different trade there as well.
- Historical Records: What family records will you find?
- Here you can choose to view Census records, Passenger List, Draft cards.
- Life Expectancy: What is the average lifespan?
- This view has a write-up about the family and a graph to compare the family’s age of death and the general population.
- Famous Family Ancestors: Discover the unique achievements of ancestors in your family tree.
- Here you explore those records; you need to sign up for the 14 days free trial.
Ancestry has set this section up quite lovely. The other sites I mentioned included some of the similar information based on the records in their databases. The difference is how they display the data and the amount available.
Dictionary of American Family Names
- The unique feature in Ancestry: The Name Meaning Source:
- Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press
This Dictionary is impressive; it contains the names of more than 90% of the US population. It is not free to use by the public but used by institutions, libraries and purchased by the public.
“The editor, Patrick Hanks, is a renowned lexicographer and names researcher affiliated with Brandeis University. He is also the editor of the Dictionary of Surnames and The Dictionary of First Names.” 
My thoughts would be to continue to use Ancestry if looking for name origins and meanings, especially discovering that Ancestry has access to the information from this publication. Alternatively, this would be a neat side project; if interested, you might want to consider purchasing the book at Amazon.com at a better price than the Oxford Academic.
Oxford University Press:
Most Logical Option in Discovering Your Origin
Genealogy research, for me, is all about the search. I love the mystery behind finding the next clue, solving the puzzle if it becomes challenging. I have the same feeling about finding the origin and meaning of any surname in my family tree.
Not that I don’t use any of the tools provided by reputable websites. You bet I do; they provide valuable information and work hard to make it available in a user-friendly manner. I try to keep the new information on the back burner and continue with my search step by step until I reach the generation that reveals the origin of the Surname.
So go ahead and use all the resources available to you, remember. Don’t take short cuts, do the work, and enjoy the rewards.
I would love to hear your opinion on the topic of Surname Origins.
If you have any questions on the subject, I would like to hear from you.
- https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195081374.001.0001/acref-9780195081374 ↑