Surname societies: A resource for discovering your family history

Surname-based organizations and societies

Surname societies: A resource for discovering your family history

Tracing your family history can be an exciting and rewarding journey. Learning about where your ancestors came from, their life stories, and their struggles can bring a sense of belonging, connection, and understanding to your own life. However, genealogy research can also be a daunting and overwhelming task, especially if you don't know where to start. That's where surname societies come in.

Surname societies are organizations dedicated to researching, preserving, and sharing information about specific family surnames. They can be a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about their family history, regardless of their level of experience in genealogy research. In this article, we'll explore what surname societies are, how they work, and how they can help you discover your family history.

What are surname societies?

Surname societies are typically non-profit organizations run by volunteers who share a common interest in a particular last name. Most societies focus on a specific geographic area or ethnic group. For example, you might find societies dedicated to researching Scottish surnames, Irish surnames, or surnames from a particular county or region within a country. Some societies are also dedicated to specific professions or industries. For example, there are societies dedicated to researching the surnames of blacksmiths, carpenters, or seafarers.

What do surname societies do?

Most surname societies perform a variety of activities to help their members research their family history. Some of the common services and resources offered by surname societies include:

- Genealogy research: Surname societies often have extensive databases of genealogical records, including birth, marriage, and death certificates, census records, wills, and probate records. They also have access to genealogy software that can help members organize their research and create family trees.

- Membership directories: Surname societies often publish membership directories that list the names and contact information of members who are researching a particular surname. These directories can be useful for connecting with other researchers who may have information or insights that can help you with your own research.

- Meetings and conferences: Surname societies often hold regular meetings and conferences where members can share research tips, listen to guest speakers, and network with other researchers. Some societies also organize tours of historical sites or ancestral homelands.

- Publications: Surname societies often publish newsletters or journals that contain articles about specific surnames, genealogy research tips, and updates on society activities. These publications can be a valuable source of information and inspiration for genealogy research.

- DNA testing: Many surname societies now offer DNA testing as a way to connect members who share a common ancestry. Through DNA testing, members can discover genetic matches and potentially uncover new branches of their family tree.

How can surname societies help you discover your family history?

If you're interested in learning more about your family history, joining a surname society can be a great way to jumpstart your research. Some of the ways that surname societies can help you include:

- Connecting you with other researchers: By joining a surname society, you'll have access to a network of other researchers who are interested in the same surname as you. This can be especially helpful if you're just starting out and don't know where to begin.

- Accessing specialized databases: Many surname societies have databases of genealogy records that are not available online or through other sources. By joining a society, you'll have access to these valuable resources.

- Learning from experts: Surname societies often invite guest speakers who are experts in genealogy research or in a particular aspect of the surname's history. Attending these meetings or conferences can provide you with valuable insights and tips for your research.

- Participating in DNA testing: If you're interested in using DNA testing to learn more about your family history, joining a surname society that offers this service may be a good option. Through DNA testing, you can potentially connect with genetic matches who can help you uncover new branches of your family tree.


If you're interested in discovering your family history, joining a surname society can be a valuable resource. Through genealogy research, membership directories, meetings and conferences, publications, and DNA testing, surname societies can help you uncover new information about your ancestors and connect with other researchers who share your interests. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced genealogy researcher, a surname society can provide you with the tools, resources, and support you need to uncover the stories of your family's past.