Word Etymologies: Surnames and the Crafts

"Family names can tell us what crafts, trades, and professions flourished in [an] earlier period and can even give us some indication of the relative frequency of craftsmen and others in that period. When we find names such as Fletcher (arrow maker), Weaver (weaver), Dyer, Turner, Carpenter and a host of others, we know that many crafts still flourishing in the nineteenth century were flourishing centuries earlier (Carpenter, for example) while some such as that of Fletcher have pretty well died out. When we reflect how common a name Smith is, we must conclude that there were great numbers of smiths (mostly blacksmiths) in that earlier period, but when we see how comparatively rare the name Painter is, we must conclude that paint and the specialists who applied it were either rare of non-prolific. This matter of relative frequency must be applied with some caution, however."

Warren Roberts, "Hoosier and Family Names," Viewpoints: 46.