English surnames started to become widespread from the 11th century onwards. They generally come from one of four broad categories.
First, there are the names that are simply "son of". These include some of the most common surnames: Jones (son of John), Johnson, Williams, Wilson, Williamson, Thomas, Thompson, Davies and Davis.
Then there are the surnames derived from a nickname, such as Whitehead, Short and Beck (from beak, for a person with a big nose).
A third group...