RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees No. 2 [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Frog RootsWeb's Guide to
Tracing Family Trees


Guide No. 2


What's in a Name?






Can't find any of your relatives?
Try the
Telephone Directories on the Web
from around the world.



Relationship Chart

Chart of Consanguinity


Getting Started in Genealogy & Family History


Genuki Logo



Start with Family and Home Sources

by Johni Cerny

From the Beginning

by Penny Bonnar


Sources of Genealogical Information


Articles on names
Myra Vanderpool

Gormley, CG

Funny Names May Adorn Your Family Tree

What's In a Name?

Where did they get those names?

Truelove Sparks,
Agreen Crabtree,
River Jordan,
Noble Gun — your ancestors?

Surname origins of German Ancestors


French Surnames
(Anglicized translations)


Cyndi's List: Surnames, Family Associations


Printer Friendly Version



Bo Peep"Every surname is a story in itself. It may tell you where your forebears originated, what their work was, or their social status. It may even tell you the color of their hair or complexion, if they were bald, or had bandy legs, or were thin or tall, short or fat . . .

"While some of our surnames have remained virtually unaltered for centuries, others, distorted and changed by local dialects and alien tongues, bear little resemblance to their original spelling or pronunciation . . ." Asterisk


Turn your back on a genealogist — novice or experienced — and the first thing they will do is look for their surname in a book, on a CD, in a document, or on a web page. So what are you waiting for? See if there is information about your surname here at RootsWeb: Don't be too picky about how the name is spelled or you might overlook some genealogical gems.

Pin   Surname Searches at and
Pin World Connect more than 400 million names and growing daily.
Pin Search Thingy a powerful sitewide search engine.
Pin Meta Search search multiple databases with one entry.
Pin RootsWeb Surname List more than 1 million surname entries.
Pin Mailing List Archives:
Interactive Search
Threaded Archives

ROOTS-L Archives

Surname Resources at RootsWeb

RootsWeb is home to thousands of surname/family mailing lists. Whether you are a brand-new researcher or a more experienced one, subscribing to a surname mailing list can be of immense help to you for learning about your ancestors. In fact, it can jump-start your genealogical research and save you time and money. Through mailing lists you are likely to find cousins who are working on the same branches of your family tree or who have connecting lines. Some of them may have old family Bibles, letters, photographs and/or genealogical material they compiled that they are willing to share with you.

Pin A cousin discovered a trunk full of old letters and pictures when her grandmother died. Among them were letters my great-grandfather had written to her family back in Kentucky with news of his wife and children and about their everyday life in Arkansas. We discovered our connection via a surname mailing list.

PinA new researcher recently posted a query on another surname mailing list to which I subscribe, and within an hour I was able to send him nine generations of his Dutch ancestors.

Pin So how do mailing lists work? You send a piece of e-mail to the mailing list's address, and the list retransmits (or reposts) that message to everyone who is subscribed to that particular list.

Pin Check RootsWeb's mailing lists for surnames, by locality and under other for miscellaneous lists.


Quacking up

Scrooge McDuck  

You think you have some funny characters and names in your family tree?

Take a gander at these:


  • Scrooge McDuck
  • Grandma Duck
  • Gus Goose
  • Gladstone Gander
  • Miss Quackfaster
  • John D. Rockerduck
  • Glittering
  • Ludwig Von Drake
  • Matilda McDuck
  • Hortense McDuck


  • Quakmore Duck
  • Fethry Duck
  • Double-O Duck
  • Moby Duck
  • Huey Duck
  • Dewey Duck
  • Louie Duck
  • Daisy Duck
  • April Duck
  • May Duck
  • June Duck

Just for fun: Can you untangle these birds
in Donald Duck's family tree?

Asterisk Freeman, J. W. 2nd ed. 1973. Discovering Surnames: Their Origins and Meanings. Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, UK. Shire Publications Ltd.



Books Suggested Reading
& References

Bahlow, Hans. Deutsches Namenlexikon. Frankfurt am main: Ausgabe Suhrkamp Verlag 1967 (1972).

Bardsley, Charles Wareing. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames with special American instances. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1980.

Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, Limited, 1988 (1994).

Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History. New York: The New York Public Library. 1946 (1984).

Fucilla, Joseph G. Our Italian Surnames. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1949 (1987).

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1988 (1992).

Hoffman, William F. Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. Chicago, Ill.: Polish Genealogical Society of America. 1993.

Jones, George F. German-American Names. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1990.

MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland, Irish Academic Press Limited: Dublin, 1964 (1980).

Rowlands, John & Sheila. The Surnames of Wales. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1996.

Smith, Elsdon C. New Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Harper & Row. 1956 (1973).




Dot Index to Guides Page
Dot RootsWeb Guides to Tracing Family Trees are written & compiled by professional genealogists Julia M. Case, Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG & Rhonda McClure

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