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browsing through stories likes these, I was just wondering if there are books or websites or other kind of sources that make it possible to see when a certain surname appears the very first time in a given region? I personally would be interested in German surnames in Germany, but as a general question does such data base actually exist somewhere?

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    How are your language skills? There are a number of resources mentioned in wiki-de.genealogy.net/Familiennamen, but it may be tough reading for a non-German reader. – bgwiehle Sep 24 '15 at 18:12
  • I am German, so it is fine with me. Thank you very much, bgwiehle! – Til Hund Sep 24 '15 at 19:53
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The GenWiki page "Familienname" (in German) is an overview of the history and origins of German surnames. Most German surnames came into use during the 14th to 16th centuries, and are derived from given names, occupations, locations and descriptions. Regional variations derive from dialect differences and other influences.

The above page includes an appended list of resources, including regional reference texts. Although some of the other material is online (some behind paywalls), hardcopy books and periodical articles also have valuable information, depending on the region of interest. These can be very technical.

Surname studies use research in old records to determine early mentions of a surname in a specific location (that is, the transition between individual identifiers into inherited familynames).

Here are 2 similar surnames, as examples, from Schlesisches Namenbuch, page 79, 1953, Hans Bahlow (author of several books on German surnames):

Bergmann (Görlitz 49 Liegnitz 20 Hirschberg 17 Bunzlau 9 Freystadt 5 Schweidnitz 5 Öls 2 Beuthen 2!)
Gleichbedeutend mit Berger (siehe dies!), wie Grundmann = Gründer. - Belege: Nykil Bergmann 1319 Schweidnitz. Petrus Berkman 1381 Breslau; Peter Berkmann 1418/19 Görlitz. Aber auch Berufsname: Bertolt der berkman 1346/47 Glatz.

Berger (Liegnitz 54 Görlitz 40 Hirschberg 13 Schweidnitz 31 Glatz 2 T 15 Ratibor u. Neustadt oft, Oppeln 23 Beuthen 38).
Von der Wohnstätte auf oder an einem Berge, im Gegensatz zum Gründer. Daher im Gebirgsschlesischen häufig. Vgl. Bergmann! - Belege: Lutold uf dem berge 1315 ca. Görlitz; Ticzco de Monte 1343 Liegnitz; Petir der of dem berge 1385 Breslau; Hane of dem berge 1381 Sorau Land; Althannus vom Berge 1450/52 Schweidnitz; Jacob offm berge und Paul vom berge 1437 Liegnitz; Petrus Berger 1367 Breslau; Nicolaus Berger 1371 Reichenbach; Pawel Berger 1397 Liegnitz; Syfrit Berger 1410 Görlitz, u. öfter ebd.

Format of above examples
Surname (number of examples found in the records of various regional cities (abbreviations expanded), which give relative frequencies)
Origin of surname. Examples from the records, with dates.

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