Surnames The more unusual your surname, the easier it may be to research. As well as providing a key to other records, the name itself will have a story to tell. See also the page on Variant and deviant surnames. There are eight main types of surname: Locative : derives from the place where someone came from or lived. This is the most common type of surname in England. Sub-categories of locative are: Topographical : derived from a distinctive geographical feature, e.g. Green, Hill, Langridge, Townsend. Toponymic : derived from a place name, e.g. Beckham, Helmsley, Stepney. Occupational or metronymic : derives from the occupation of the bearer, e.g. Abbot, Cheeseman, Draper, Shoesmith, Thatcher. Postholder : derived from holding a particular post, e.g. Hayward, Bailey. Patronymic : derived from the forename of the father. There are different patterns found in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, e.g. Bowen, Eriksdottir, Fitzgerald, Johnson, Jones, MacDonald, Quayle, O’Brien, Pritchard, Richardson, Williams. Matronymic : derived from the forename of the mother, e.g. Beaton, Margetson, Tillotson. Diminutive forename : A forename altered to be used as a surname. In medieval times this was often with the addition of -cock, -lett, or -kin, e.g. Bartlett, Dykin, Miskin, Towcock. Genitive : A name implying ownership by someone, e.g. Squires, Manners. Nickname or Physical Appearance : e.g. Cruikshank, Fox, Longfellow, Redhead, Toogood. If your surname has multiple origins, it may also have multiple meanings. For a more extended discussion of the different types of surnames and their different distributions in the Anglophone world, see the papers from a conference held in 2004 on Surnames as a quantitative resource: the geography of British and Anglophone surnames.