Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor: Naming Characters: "I can't write a story until I have the names of my characters situated in my head. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Most often, I start with The Character Naming Source Book. It's a great reference because it gives you surnames with the country they originated from and the meaning of the names. This is important to your characters' background, family origin, culture and beliefs. . . . . .
Other ways I like to choose names is through Genealogy research of known family surnames in the area of where my books are set. These are accurate and appropriate. Tombstones and census records will tell you who lived in the area and when they lived there. You can't get more accurate than that, although keep in mind some of the spelling variations were different from place to place and family branch to family branch. This is because of dialect in regions, illiteracy, and people changing their names to accommodate the new area where they are living. Some great genealogy resource sites are http://www.ancestry.com/ and http://www.rootsweb.com/. These sites will get you started in the right direction."