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For a small community of about 23,000 people, the Chitrapur Saraswats have over 300 surnames.When the Saraswats migrated from Goa and settled down in the Kanaras, they adopted the local practice of suffixing "ayya" or "appa" to their first names. In due course, their original surnames of Goan origin were forgotten and village names came to be added to distinguish the families. Thus there was a Gokarnada Anantayya (Anantayya of Gokarn), Chandavarada Ramayya, Kundapurada Krishnayya and so on. As members of families settled down in new places, they adopted the names of the new places. When surnames came into vogue, village names were adopted as surnames. It may be mentioned that the practice of adding Rao or Bhat still continues among some of the Saraswats.

Rao Bahadur S.S.Talmaki, an authority on the subject, has listed some 315 surnames, out of which 281 are names of villages/towns. Out of these, as many as 195 are from South Kanara or Dakshina Kannada, 12 are from old Mysore State, Malabar and Goa and the rest from the North Kanara. 34 surnames are derived from professions, Gotras and nicknames.

There is no correspondence between the number of families and surnames. For example, there are some 10 families with the surname Mangalore, 9 families with the surname Shirali and so on. It is significant to note that only few families like Nadkarni and Kulkarni have retained their surnames, wherever they settled.

We will try to trace the history of as many surnames as possible. Members may kindly contribute any information they may have regarding their own surnames as comments.