Discover four FREE & easy ways to learn more about your family names


07 June 2024
Search TheGenealogist MasterSearch for your surname of interest and note which counties your surname appears in Search TheGenealogist MasterSearch for your surname of interest and note which counties your surname appears in
Is that your ancestor in the records? Or just someone with the same name? Is that name found frequently in that place? Or is it a rarity? With family history we have so many questions about names...

Understanding more about the origins of your family name isn’t just a point of idle curiosity; having knowledge about where the surnames in your family tree came from is vitally important in order to be able to conduct focused research, and also be able to make sense of your search results.

Is someone else researching my surname?

The first step to finding out whether someone is already researching your surname is to check the registers.

Explore the Guild of One-Name Studies website and enter your family name in the surname search bar. The Guild of One-Names Studies is an international organisation and its members dedicate themselves to researching specific surnames (and surname variations - our ancestors' spelling was a little inconsistent sometimes, and spellings evolved over time too). Currently more than 7,000 names are being researched and the researchers will be focussing on spelling variants too.

See whether your surname is being researched at the Guild of One-Name Studies

The next step, if you enjoy weaving DNA into your family history, is to be sure too to check the Group Projects at FamilyTreeDNA. These projects number more than 12,000 and relate to a surname or geographical area of interest. Search for your surname of interest and follow the links to each of the projects including your name (your name may be being investigated by a number of projects).

Check whether a DNA surname project is underway for your name at FamilyTreeDNA

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What if my surname is spelt differently? 

Dealing with surname spelling variations are part and parcel family history research. Our ancestors' names may have been spelt differently in the records for any number of reasons: lack of literacy, the evolution of a surname and spelling trends over time, the way in which someone interpreted the audible sound of the surname when copying it down, and simple spelling mistakes. Having a clear appreciation of the many ways in which your ancestor's name may appear in the records is extremely helpful in aiding you in being sure as to whether an entry in the records really is for your ancestor. Having an understanding of the numerous spelling variations can help you conduct more thorough searches for your ancestor too. The Original Record website can be filtered by date span and browsed by surnames, listed alphabetically, and gives much food for thought as to possible surname variations to look out for.

Search for your surname at Original Record and keep an eye out for other spelling variations

Which counties is my surname found in?

Search TheGenealogist MasterSearch for your surname of interest. Use the 'Filter by event' tools to explore the coverage, by county and period, for your surname of interest. For instance, select the 'census' filter, and within that you can study each census year, gaining overall numbers of which counties  your family name appears in, and how many instances there of it. 

Search TheGenealogist MasterSearch for your surname of interest, and see which counties it appears in