Welcome to
Select Surnames


Welcome to the select surnames website.

What’s in a last name?  More than you might think.  Each surname carries an individual history that has been shaped by all the forebears of that name.  In palmistry, the left hand usually tells you what you are born with, the right hand what you made on your life.  So too with family genealogy.  Word origin and DNA will provide a starting point.  But the history and events over time can give these last names their distinctive characteristics and traits.

In fact each last name may have a distinct narrative that extends back through the mists of time to its early formulation.  We can follow where the name came from (sometimes from more than one location) and where the name migrated to over time, as well as the many incidents and events along the way.

This site contains narratives for more than one thousand select last names in the English-speaking world.  There are to be found here last names of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish origin.  And the list also includes additional last names of Germanic, Dutch, French, Huguenot, Jewish, and Scandinavian origin.

Select Surnames

You can check out all the surnames we cover by clicking here onto the Select Surnames page.

Alternatively, please type in below the surname or last name in which you are interested.

Coverage of each last name includes:

  • a discussion on the origin of the name and its meaning
  • the internet resources on the name available (including family histories)
  • early history of the name at its origin and the main family lines in the British Isles and Europe
  • migratory patterns, how and when
  • the history of the name in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, including individual family lines
  • famous bearers of the name
  • the numbers today in the UK, America and elsewhere
  • plus a miscellany section providing stories and accounts relating to the name over the years.

You may also be interested in Famous Today where we look at some 100 famous people of today and trace their family history.

Please note also our Privacy Policy.

Background on Surnames

Surname History gives some historical background on these last names.

The Top 300 Surnames page ranks the 300 most common last names over all in the principal English-speaking countries, that is in the UK, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These are ranked according to their approximate total family numbers there today.

And the Top Ten Surnames page provides a ranking by numbers of (a) the most common ten last names in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, America, Canada, Jamaica, Barbados, Australia and New Zealand, and (b) in America – the Jewish, German, African American. and Hispanic most common ten last names.

If you wish to dig further into online information about surnames, do check out our review of the Best Genealogy Sites – covering the top four sites, the best DNA-testing sites, and the best free sites.  Among the sites covered and reviewed in detail are:

Reader Feedback

We invite from our readers in our Contact section:

  • any comments and suggestions on the site and on the surnames shown.
  • any family histories that you might care to share.
  • any additions to the internet resource listings on particular surnames.
  • and any suggestions as to new surnames to be covered.

Enjoy the site!

Best regards,

Colin Shelley

Written by Colin Shelley

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