How can you trace the origins of my surname?


Quick Answer

There are several online tools for tracing the origins of a surname; perhaps the best known of which is at the Ancestry website. This search tool enables users to enter their surname to find out its meaning, history and geographical origin. It also provides details on migration to the United States, Civil War service, common occupations and even the average life expectancy of people with that surname.

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Full Answer

There are a number of other, less comprehensive, but nevertheless useful, online tools for tracing the origins of surnames. Many deal with geographical, rather than etymological, origins.

The search tool at Public Profiler, for example, allows users to view the geographical distribution of their surname, as well as its cultural origin. The latter information is based on data from OnoMAP, another website which allows users to search by their own or somebody else's full name, both forename and surname.

Public Profiler also gathers data from telephone directories and national electoral registers from between 2000 and 2005.

After users have inputted a surname to search for, the website returns a map highlighting all countries where the surname is especially concentrated. These maps are interactive and allow users to zoom into countries to see their surname's regional distribution, as well as into regions for more localized information.

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