Many of us have last names that were passed down from English ancestors. If you know that your family comes from English or if your last name is pronounceable in English and you can actually recognize one or many words from the standard English vocabulary, it could tell you quite a bit about the history of your lineage.
Surnames were not commonly used until the 1060s, but when the population started to grow, it made it necessary to be more specific when referring to someone. At first, appellations were mere description such as Thomas the Baker, Norman son of Richard, Henry the Whitehead, Elizabeth of the Field, and Joan of York. These descriptions were then turned into the surnames we now know and use. There are perhaps 45,000 different English surnames, but most had their origins as one of these seven types.
Occupational names identified people based on their job or position in society. Some of the most frequent occupational names include Archer, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Carter, Clark, Cooper, Carpenter, Cook, Dyer, Farmer, Faulkner, Fisher, Fuller, Gardener, Glover, Head, Hunt or Hunter, Judge, Knight, Mason, Page, Parker, Potter, Sawyer, Slater, Smith, Taylor, Thatcher, Turner, Weaver, Woodman, and Wright (or variations such as Cartwright and Wainwright) — and there are many more.
This kind of name could also be used as an indication of whom a servant worked for. For example, someone named Williams might have been a servant to Mr. William.