The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Do Surnames Matter in Research?

Some genealogists argue that surname research isn't very important because spelling can vary over time and many immigrants anglicized their names upon arrival in the United States. However, there are tools which can be used with surnames and their variations to determine ancestral origins. offers lists of surnames for 39 languages. This website devoted to the "etymology and history of surnames" can be used to find variants of surnames across languages. offers a free surname search which shows distribution in the United States and the United Kingdom. There are also links to place of origin and year of immigration.

If you have determined that your surname is German or Dutch, sites such as Geogen and Family Names in the Netherlands can help in pinpointing your ancestors' places of origin.

For help with your surname research, contact your local Springfield-Greene County Library.

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