Researching your family tree can be time consuming or costly. A way to short-cut the process is to examine your surname (or your father's surname if you have taken your spouse's name). The surname is like a time-machine that can transport you back thousands of years.
The Chinese have had surnames for nearly three thousand years (their surname comes first, before the personal name). In Europe however, surnames only began to catch on around the time of the middle ages. Surnames have been handed down through generations to the present day. In the U.S., early settlers already had surnames.
In general, there are four categories of names:
Local or topographic: Deriving from where they live or where they come from:e.g.ChurchillBushBlair (Scottish/Northern Irish field)Graham (from Grantham, UK)
Nickname: Perhaps based on a personal characteristice.g.LongArmstrongWisemanFreud (Cheerful)
Patronymic: Named after a family member or an iconic or religious person or Gode.g.Johnson (son of John)MuhammadLopezWilliams...