There’s more to learn from your last name than you might initially expect.

Deep family history research can provide the full story, but your last name alone holds clues to your past.

Here are 5 fascinating things that your father’s last name can tell you about yourself.

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It Can Tell You What Your Ancestors Did for a Living

Many surnames were originally derived from the occupations your ancestors practiced. And while some occupational surnames are easily recognized by today (baker or shoemaker, for example), some surnames relate to occupations that we no longer immediately recognize.

The ever-shifting landscape of time has rendered some occupations virtually obsolete: carter, thatcher, wainwright, etc.

And some occupational surnames aren’t obvious to English speakers who don’t know the language of origin: The name Schneider, for example, means “tailor” in German.

One quick way to explore the occupations of people with your surname is the Last Names Meanings and Origins widget.

I discovered that my ancestors, the Johnsons, were predominantly farmers.

It Can Tell You If You Have a Rare Name

Perhaps your friends possess such ubiquitous surnames as Smith or Brown or Johnson. But maybe you hardly ever hear of anyone with your last name.

It could be that you have a rare surname. And even if you have a common surname, it’s possible that–over time–some of the surnames in your family tree have disappeared altogether.

If your name is especially uncommon, check out this list of endangered English surnames of endangered English surnames to learn more.

Or find out where your surname ranks on the top 10 most common surnames in the United States.

It Can Tell You If You’re a Mayflower Descendant

Is your last name Howland? Eaton? Billington? You could be a Mayflower descendant.

It’s estimated that as many as 35 million people descend from the passengers of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620. So it’s possible that there’s a Mayflower passenger or two in your ancestry.

In fact, a number of famous Americans, including presidents and Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe, are Mayflower descendants.

The surnames of passengers on the Mayflower could be your first clue to uncovering ties to these pioneers.

The first clue on your journey of discovering family ties to the Mayflower could be this list of surnames of May

These surnames of Mayflower passengers could provide your first clue.

It Can Tell You How Long You’ll Live Compared to the Average

As of 2014, the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.94 years. But if you’re like most people, you’re less interested in averages and more interested in what your own life expectancy could be.

You can plug in your surname here to discover the average life expectancy for people with your surname as compared to the average.

One caveat to keep in mind if your surname has a historically shorter life expectancy: now-obsolete health issues may have plagued your ancestors before the advent of modern medicine, resulting in a shorter-than-average lifespan that has no bearing on today’s families.

It Can Give You a Clue If You’re Royal

It took me years of research to learn that my 16th great-grandmother was Anne Devereux, the Countess of Pembroke. My first clue was my last name’s origin.

But you can get clues to your own aristocratic background much more quickly thanks to researchers at the University of California – Davis and the London School of Economics, who discovered that it takes centuries for upper-class surnames to move back to the middle class.

They identified a variety of unique and aristocratic surnames in their study. And your last name could be your first clue.

Who knows? You might have royal connections and not even know it!

Are you ready to uncover the data that your Father’s last name can tell you? Start a free trial today!

 

– Samantha Johnson