Today, I start a new series called First Day Review. This series will focus on resources (primarily books) that I use or have discovered. The first one is this rather unassuming book called People's Names by Holly Ingraham.
This book, however, is an excellent resource for all writers out there. The first half of the book is dedicated to region and ethnicity. It breaks down by country such as England, Romania, India then further breaks down into appropriate categories such as the plethora of Native American or African names by ethnic group.
The second portion of the book is dedicated to historical names beginning with the Breton of Bretagne (NW France) and Yiddish. It proceeds backward through time beginning with the Victorians and ends with the Sumerians. The last chapter is dedicated to Shadow Languages which helps writers of fantasy, science-fiction and lost languages to create a plausible language reality for their stories.
I use this book in conjunction with the website www.behindthename.com because that website offers comments from other users concerning use and pronunciation where appropriate. Who knew that an Ancient Irish name was actually a slur against Protestants in N. Ireland in recent history?
I will warn you, though, that to purchase the book can be a little expensive. I purchased my copy back in 2007 for $50. The prices range, if you can find it. If you are using it for a quick reference for a particular time period then using the library's copy might be easier. Unfortunately, not all library systems own a copy. If you deal with a variety of times, locations and people groups then purchasing the book might be better.
All in all, I consider my purchase of People's Names to be one of the best investments that I have ever made for my writing career.