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  • A surname, also known as a last name or family name, is a hereditary name passed down from one generation to another. It is used to identify and distinguish individuals within a family or lineage. Surnames often reflect a person's ancestry, occupation, or geographic origin.
  • Ancestry has partnered with Oxford University Press, whose academic researchers have studied the etymology of surnames based on historical usage, location, language, and more.
  • The most common last names in the world vary by region and culture. However, some of the most widespread surnames globally include Smith, Johnson, Wang, Li, and Garcia. It's important to note that the popularity of last names can change over time due to factors like migration and cultural shifts.
  • Last names can be derived from occupations (e.g., Smith), locations (e.g., Hill), personal characteristics (e.g., Young), or paternal lineage (e.g., Johnson). In some cultures, surnames were assigned based on the father's name (e.g., O'Connor, meaning "son of Connor"). Over time, these naming practices evolved and were influenced by historical, cultural, and linguistic factors.
  • In Europe, surnames became more common during the Middle Ages as populations grew and individuals needed additional identifiers. In China, surnames have been used for thousands of years, with the earliest recorded instances dating back to ancient dynasties.