Oxford University Press have published the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, the culmination of a recent research project (Family Names of the United Kingdom) into 45,600 surnames in Britain and Ireland.
The team researched records from sources dating from the 11th to the 19th century to identify new and sometimes detailed explanations for surnames, even those held by as few as 100 people.
The 4 volume set is published at £400 but some public libraries may get it as part of their online Oxford University Press Reference subscription.
Until the end of November, you can use it online for free, using
Search the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council have awarded the team a grant to continue the project so that another 15,000 surnames with as few as 20 current bearers can be researched.