I spent the better part of a week doing research for the name of one of my characters. Not my main character, mind, which came to me long ago, from my deep unconscious. This character is that which rubs against the grain of my protagonist. Her perpendicular love. I deemed it crucial to chose a name that was perfect for the story and also historically accurate. Because he is on a pedestal, above her in her own mind, he needed to be steeped in authenticity.
I came upon http://www.proni.gov.uk/, the Public Record Office of North Ireland. This allowed to look through common family names over the last century. I also looked at some family crests and trees.
Another interesting and powerfully helpful find was http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/. This was the zenith to the hunt. The censuses of 1901 and 1911 gave me an idea of which families resided in which regions at the beginning of the last century. I perused the towns of Ireland down to the most minuscule nooks and hallows. With this, coupled with Google Maps, I was able to pinpoint the exact location where my character was born and raised.
I also looked into how children are traditionally named in Irish Catholic families. So, from the census of the family name I chose, I was able to let it cascade fictitiously to the present. Thus, I now have a character name that I love. I feared most that this process would only yield contrived results. That each time I wrote or read the name I would step through it like drying mud. Would I always wonder if I got it right? But, thankfully, I took enough time to do my research that the pieces came together organically.
Coming to you soon: The story of J.L. and D.K. 😉