1. The All New Surnames of Ireland by Edward Neafsey (Irish Genealogical Foundation). Discover some 200 family histories — each accompanied with a map of Ireland showing clusters of the surname — in this tome, which combines historical research with the locations of Irish families today. The introduction gives an overview of how Irish surnames are handed down; it also discusses prefixes such as Mac- or Mc- and 0′-. This book is a great reference for families with surnames from Adamson to Yeates.
2. Christian Names in Local and Family History by George Redmonds (Dun durn Press). This book shows how Enghsh fist names (or Christian names) are just as important as surnames in genealogy. Other works on given names usually concentrate on etymology, but Redmonds goes a step further: He believes every name has a precise origin and history of expansion, meaning you can trace your first name to a specific region or town. This book will inspire you to review first names in your family history with a more critical eye.
3. Dictionary of American Family Names, 3 volumes, edited by Patrick Hanks (Oxford University Press). Look up the origins and meanings of more than 70,000 names common in the United States, including those of foreign nationalities. The unique “Forebears” sections within some surname listings provide undocumented genealogical notes about the progenitors who carried those surnames to America, possibly giving you clues to your ancestry. You’ll also find the introductory material extremely interesting and helpful. Besides discussing the study of names (known as onomastics), the series’ introduction contains sections outlining names used by 23 ethnic groups, each with a bibliography for more information. Because of its hefty price tag, you’ll probably want to look for this dictionary in the reference department of your local library.
4. A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames by Lars Menk (Avotaynu). This tome identifies more than 13,000 German Jewish surnames from pre-WWI Germany. You’ll find the etymology and variants of each name, plus the region, town and time period in which the name was used. Several tables list name suffixes, the distribution of common surnames, and names based on towns, geography, personal traits and occupations. These details can provide clues to how your ancestors got their names — and where your family might have come from.
5. Hispanic Surnames and Family History by Lyman D. Platt (Genealogical Publishing Co.). You’ll learn about the development of surnames in Spanish speaking America with this comprehensive work. The book covers the top 1,000 US and Latin American surnames, more than 12,500 Hispanic surnames from the 1980 US census, and surnames unique to Latin American countries, plus a bibliography of published family histories. It’s a good reference for people with Hispanic roots.
6. Our Italian Surnames by Joseph G. Fucilla (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Originally published in 1949 and recently reprinted, this is still the most widely consulted book on Italian names. It discusses given names as well as the evolution of surnames, and explains how names were derived from places, kinship, animals, insects and occupations. Rather than a dictionary approach, this work covers names in a narrative form, so you’ll find the extensive index useful.
More Surname Sources
? American Surnames by Elsdon C. Smith (Genealogical Publishing Co.).
? A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames by Charles Wareing Bardsley (Genealogical Publishing Co.)
? A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia by Alexander Beider (Avotaynu)
? In Search of Your Asian Roots: Genealogical Research on Chinese Surnames by Sheau-yueh J. Chao (Clearfield Co.)
? Scottish Surnames by David Dorward (Interlink Publishing Group)
From the April 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.