The meaning of your last name
If your family comes from England, like mine did, it's reasonable to assume that, until you have evidence to the contrary, that you are not of royal ancestry. So it's reasonable to assume that your ancestors' surnames, if they used one at all, would have reflected where they lived, where their allegiance was, who their parents were, or what they did. That's why names like Johnson (John's son) and Smith (a smith is someone who works with metal) are so common. In the case of my name, Hall, although I have no documentation, it's reasonable to assume that my ancestors were referred to by the Hall (a name for large building, owned by a nobleman) nearby where they lived. Most probably I would have been Brad of the [nobleman's name] Hall. The nobleman would most probably be referred to as a Lord, and my family would have lived on land that they paid on for all of their lives, generation after generation.
In our modern world, it's hard to imagine how very small the world of most of our ancestors was. I picture my English ancestors living in tiny villages, never traveling more than a few miles away in their entire lives, and being comfortable with calling each other only by their first names. If there were any type of confusion as to who someone with a common first name might be, the addition of the name of their father would be enough to clarify. And if a person did travel away from their village, they might describe themselves in reference to the Land Lord, and the name of that particular Hall.
By the way, the English aristocracy practiced something called Primogeniture, which passed down the entire wealth of the father to his first born son. This put a great premium on being male, and being first born. And to this day, many people focus only on the male surname, and the males of the family. Personally, my genealogy includes everyone. I've traced back my paternal lines, and my maternal lines. That's why when you visit my surname genealogy page, there are so many names. They are all my family.
Pictured: my grandfather, Robert Clyde Hall
Posted by Brad Hall