What's in your Surname?

By William Lewis


Most people have an interest in their family names and will sometimes wonder about their origins. Some names speak clearly for themselves, while others seem mysterious. Many of us will wonder about the stories behind them, especially if they are unusual. Those of us having British surnames possess that magic thread which leads back nearly a thousand years to a time when surnames were a new idea on this side of the English Channel .

Looking into our surnames is a fascinating way to discover something of our country’s history and gives us an intriguing glimpse into the working of our ancestors’ minds.

There have been many books with surnames as their theme: dictionaries of surnames, books about unusual surnames, heraldry, researching family history and so forth, but there are few books which look at British history solely through surnames. Our surnames give us a personal stake in our country’s history and investigating them can lead us back a thousand years. This book tells the fascinating story of when our surnames first came into use, why they were necessary and how people acquired them.

It reveals that their meanings are the key features to understanding their origins: is your surname from an ancestor’s occupation, a relationship, or perhaps from his nickname? Did he hold public office or was he named after his place of origin? Or perhaps he was named after a Biblical character. This book will reveal the answers to many questions about surnames.

CONTENTSPreface • What are Surnames and how old are they? • Surnames from Occupations • Surnames from Places • Surnames from Local Features • Surnames from Relationships • Surnames from Words of Affection • Surnames from Nicknames • Surnames from Personal Names • PostsciptReferencesGeneral indexIndex of surnames