Information about family name origins can be found at Ancestry.com and SurnameDB.com. Both sites offer information on country of origin and meanings of surnames, while Ancestry.com also offers common derivatives and alternate spellings of surnames.
Surnames can reveal many things about family history. Many Western surnames describe an occupation that someone in the family once held, while others describe a geographic location where members of the family likely once resided. Patronymics are another common surname origin. These surnames include a first name, followed by the suffix -son, indicating that the ancestor who adopted the name was descended from someone with that particular first name.