The first people known to use surnames were the Chinese in 2852 B.C.

Surnames were once taken from the location where they lived.  For instance John who lived over the hill became - John Overhill.  So names that end in -ford, -wood, -brook -well are placement names.


Surnames that end in the word "son,"... Williamson, etc, are the "son of."  Other countries used this also.  Armenians used -ian;  Danes & Norwegians used -sen;  Finns -nen;  Greeks - poulos;  Spaniard -ez;  Poles -wiecz.

Surnames that have prefixes donating "son" are the Welsh -Ap;  Scots & Irish -Mac;  the Normans -Fitz.
The name David ap John, meaning David son of John, became David Upjohn.
The name John fitz Gerald means the son of Gerald and now would be John Fitzgerald


During the Middle Ages, people were gradually acquiring a name to distinguish individuality.  Places of birth or traits were used ... St. Frances of Assisi; Lambert Le Tort, an old French poet whose name means "Lambert the Twisted," but these were individual names ... not family names.

The modern hereditary use of surnames is a practice that started among the Venetian aristocracy in Italy about the 10th or 11th century.


By the 1370's the word 'Surname' was found in documents, throughout France, the British Isles, Germany, & Spain.

By 1450 most people (in Europe) of any social rank had a fixed, hereditary surname.


By the 15th & 16th centuries family names gained popularity in Poland & Russia.

The Scandinavian Countries, bound by their custom of using the fathers name as a second name, did not start using family names until the 19th century.


Not all people in Turkey used surnames until 1933 when the government forced the practice on people.

In Ireland, a surname that starts with Mac, meant '"son of." An example is: MacDonald.
If it starts with "O," it meant "grandson of," ... example: O'Brien.


The most common surname on the planet is Li, the second is Wang.

After the Battle of Hastings, 1066 AD, William the Conqueror ordered every man in Britain to select any surname.  For awhile a man could give his sons any surname, and in the same family one son might be William Hunter, one Edward Farmer, and the other James Cook.

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