Assess the origin of surnames through websites such as The Internet Surname Database, Behind the Name and Ancestry. All these websites have you type the surname, then they give the origin of the name. Ancestor Search gives the meaning and history of over 70 thousand names.
The Internet Surname Database provides you with a history of the name as well as a map that shows the distribution of the name. Ancestry lists the country the name originated from, as well as the meaning of the name. It also has a map of the name's distribution in the United States and other countries. You can view census records with that surname on them.
Behind the Name provides the source of the name, its usage, its meaning and its history. It also allows you to view names associated with different countries, has a list of the most common surnames and has a surname of the day. It provides interesting information about surnames, including the various ways that surnames originated such as given in reference to a particular place or landmark that a person lived near, the occupation of a person or a nickname given to a person. It also has information about the meaning of prefixes and suffixes used in surnames.