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Genealogy: How to do a Surname Search

How to do a surname search is significant for linking the generations of your family history.

Photos of Aunt Sara Dunham and Grandpa and Grandma Dunham started  my surname search
Selma Blackmon

Answer these questions first:

  • Who is in your tree (family history)? names, dates, places
  • How do I know these names? birth certificate, obituary, census, family member
  • What do I want to learn? origin of surname, places of surname concentration, ancestors, living family

Be prepared to share your information and documents, everything you know is a clue for you or someone else; nothing is unimportant.

My example is the DUNHAM surname. The project was started with two photographs and family records. My questions were: who is grandpa and grandma Dunham and is Aunt Sarah a Dunham by birth or marriage?


  • Google your surname such as “Dunham” or “Dunham surname”
  • Search Cyndislist for surname associations
  • Contact FGS for surname associations
  • Join surname message boards such as RootsWeb

Share your research information and documents:

  • Write general information articles and use your family as examples such as this article and other articles on
  • Write a blog about your family an example on information is shared about my Dunham family and my other surnames
  • Write family articles for association newsletters or Facebook my example the Dunham Singletary Family Connections website and newsletter are asking for family interest stories and photographs; we encourage interaction between Dunham researchers on Facebook

Give back to surname research:

  • DNA testing
  • Post your unrelated family surname documents found while narrowing your research as an example the Dunham records found in Augusta, GA and Washington, D.C. These are unrelated families, but of interest to some other researchers.

Share your family! The more records and research you share, the more you will find. Let me know your questions, write to Selma Blackmon.

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