Friday, January 20

Free Lookups in the Dictionary of American Family Names

The Dictionary of American Family Names is a classic

The Dictionary of American Family Names, from Oxford University Press, is one of those must-have resources for serious genealogists.  

Each entry gives a detailed origin of a family's surname, describing its various meanings, geographical origins, and the context in which it arose. 

In fact, the venerable Genealogy Bulletin says "it belongs in every library in America , particularly those who cater to genealogists".

Too bad the danged thing cost hundreds of dollars for the three-volume hard copy set.

Happily though, you can get online access to DAFN absolutely free, using the Surname Lookups at You can also use the look-inside-the-book feature at Amazon to search on your name.
It pays to check both sources, as the presentations at Ancestry and Amazon are somewhat different. As far as I can tell, the lookups includes all 70,000+ surnames from DAFN.  Even more, you can also look up the etymology of first names...still at no charge.  A pretty good deal!  

And if that's not enough, you can download an old (circa 1950s) version of the book from FamilySearch, absolutely free. 


Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.


Anonymous said...

couldn't find this book on ancestry. Instructions did not work

Anonymous said...

I tried this also...I couldn't even find "Other Resources" on any page. This does not work.

seemefly said...

I was lucky enough to come across this set at my local library. It was interesting to read the defintion of my name.

Anonymous said...

To find the family surname look ups, click on "Dictionaries and Encyclopedia" link under the Reference, Dictionaries & Almanacs heading on the right of the page link given above.
There are links to English, Welsh, and Irish surname origins on the right side.

Anonymous said...

i am looking for records of carroll benjimin sibley born in 1914 and died 1963.adopted in addison county and died in burlington vt.

Anonymous said...

this really don't stupid does anyone know the meaning of the last name HUTTON?

ashley said...

pretty sure hutton is native american.

Anonymous said...

That tip was absolutely ridiculous. There was no help there.

David said...

Sorry you had trouble...I think Ancestry re-did their links. Use the 'alternative link' (near the bottom of the article) and that should take you right to the Dictionary lookup page.

Post a f/u comment if you're still having problems.


Unknown said...

What site can go to and a free family history search without payin or without using a credit card

David said...

Monique...try for starters:

Good luck!

Anonymous said... is great . Also as mentioned on this site is a great place start . has quite a few free search tools .

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