Spellings of surnames
Our last names date back hundreds of years. Many of our ancestors would have been illiterate! How were names recorded in the past? Many administrators spelled names incorrectly - so many official documents have resulted in different name spellings leading to minefield when researching last names! This can be illustrated by looking at a name that is known throughout the World - William Shakespeare. The name Shakespeare was spelt in an astonishing variety of ways including Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, Shaxpere, Shakstaff, Sakspere, Shagspere, Shakeshafte and even Chacsper. The name of William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, occurs 166 times in the Council Book of the Stratford corporation, and appears to take 16 different forms!
(Toponymic names - a name derived from a place or a region)
The most common surname origins are derived from actual place names.
This is particularly relevant to English sur-names. People were given surnames that indicated a specific place name such as London, Ireland, England, Eaton, York or Washington.
Last names are also derived from Trades, Crafts, Professions or Official and other forms of status are legion but many of their origins have been lost in time.
Surnames with family connections!
The last name often comes from family connections such as Johnson (John's son) Robertson and even Nixon (Nick's son). Similar names in this category are those names beginning with Mc, Mac or Fitz such as McDonald or Fitzpatrick.
They are are complicated! Many British traditions were taken to America and became American surnames. Now add to this the other name types that derive from many other countries in the World and we have a vast amount of possible derivations of American surnames!