Surname studies and surname research are projects that investigate all occurrences of a particular surname, as opposed to a specific pedigree or descent. This type of research is much more comprehensive than a family tree, which only looks at the ancestors and descendants of an individual. A surname study can be conducted on a global or limited basis, such as a particular country, state, county, or region. Integrating DNA into surname studies is becoming increasingly popular.
A surname DNA project is a genetic genealogy project that uses genealogical DNA testing to trace the male lineage. If your DNA results match those of someone in the surname study group, you will receive the same family history information that you would have obtained through traditional genealogical research. Surname studies typically involve several approaches, such as collecting documentary data on events, analyzing DNA results, researching the origin and distribution of the surname, and tracking how the name has changed over time. Many people who are interested in family history, genealogy, or onomastics can conduct a single-name study in an informal way.
The Guild of One-Name Studies is an organization that helps genealogists with their surname research. The Surname Society was recently launched to create a collaborative environment for researching surnames. Joining a surname study group can be an important part of your genealogical research, especially if you want to explore the DNA component. In some countries, single-name studies are not possible due to the lack of surnames or religious practices associated with certain names.
To obtain data on surnames from the 18th century and earlier, researchers use the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and vital record indexes compiled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as catalogs from national archives. Beginning genealogists often have a natural curiosity about their surnames and their origins. Some scholars decide to rebuild an entire family when they discover a new individual with the same last name.