INTRODUCTION: ENGLISH SURNAMES
Most family names came into use in England between 1200 and 1400. To begin with, 'surnames' were attached not to families but to individuals.
In Anglo-Saxon times, there was such a variety of personal names and the population was so small and so generally grouped in small communities that a second name was rarely necessary for purposes of identification. It was only in retrospect that historians needed to distinguish even between kings, as, for example, Edward the Elder, Edward the Martyr and Edward the Confessor. But with the coming of the Normans a new set of much commoner names was introduced, and the multiplicity of Williams, Henrys, Johns, Roberts, Richards, Ralphs, Hughs and a few others led increasingly to the habit of giving a man a second name.
Often, these distinguishing names indicated a man's paternity his occupation or his place of origin or of residence. Thus, the son of Hugh, in various parts of the British Isles, might be surnamed Hugh, Hughes (though this might indicate not Hugh's son but his servant), Hewson, McHugh (in Scotland), O'Hea (in Ireland said to be rather grandson or descendant than son), FitzHugh (the Norman form, not, as popularly supposed, indicating illegitimacy except in certain families of royal descent, such as FitzRoy) or Pugh (the Welsh Ap Hugh).
The surname might again indicate the man's trade, as Smith, Taylor, and Farmer. Or it might record his place of origin - or occasionally in the upper classes his family seat - as Norton or Sutton, In most of these cases it may be supposed that the man had made a short remove from one village to another not far off - the more obscure his place of origin, the shorter the move.
'Topographical names' also include such names as Hill, where the original bearer presumably lived on or at or near a hill, Athill certainly indicates this.