Surnames have always provided key links in historical research. This groundbreaking new work shows that first names can also be highly significant for those tracing genealogies or studying communities. Standard works on first names have always concentrated on etymology. George Redmonds goes much further: he believes that every name has a precise origin and history of expansion, which can be regional or even local; up to c. 1700 it may even have centred on one family. This text fully explores the implications of this belief for local and family history, and challenges many published assumptions on the historical frequency of first names.