Liam, I've been hunting the answer for ages! I've managed to find a rather good site for it but it isn't informative enough for me! Here is an extract from it: A great part of all family names originated in patronymics. Usually, these were populations who did not care for family names and were known as A son of B or C daughter of D, but were conquered by a culture that imposed (or became an example of) the use of family names. It happened with the Gauls under the Romans and it also happened this very century in British colonies such as India. To this day in Russia, family names are simply patronymics, one being known by Piotr Nikkolovich (son of Nikkolo) or Anna Nikkolovna (daughter of Nikkolo). Irish O' and Irish-Scottish Mac simply mean "son of" -- a Scottish woman would have used Nic, meaning daughter of. Worldwide we have ap- in Welsh, map- in Cornish, -szoon in Holland, -son or -sen in Scandinavian countries, -escu in Romanian, -ian in Armenian, ben in Israel, ibn in Arabic, anak in Borneo, ag among the Targi (ult for a girl)... Sometimes surnames are gendered without being patronymics, as in Bulgaria and Greece.
Other family names were originally nicknames or designations referring to profession, appearance, and of course place-names. Many cultures have the equivalent of aristocratic "of" in English and "de" in France: von in Germany, van in Holland, ze for Czechs, -tsi in Armenian... In Russia the nobility particle is an -ov in the patronymic; in Arabic nobility is recognized by a surname preceded by El ("the").
Oh, and if you do find info on Romanian surnames and their links to nobility, PLEASE LET ME KNOW, IM DOING A STORY ON an Romanian aristocrat you see