Aiming to avoid technical terminology, Richard McKinley provides an introduction to the history of hereditary surnames in Britain from their first appearance to the present day.
Devoting a chapter to each of the main categories of name, he enables readers to set the facts they discover about their own ancestry, family history and surnames into the context of general surname development.
The author deals with those names that originate in England, Wales and Scotland; and since these tend to have their own distinct histories, he discusses developments in each of the three countries separately, wherever appropriate.
The book uses the study of surnames to illuminate social history and draws attention to the complex patterns of population mobility that have always characterized British Society.
It also describes regional and class differences in surnames, some features of which survive to our own time.