It's great to read about all these folks and what they got up to. There seem to be quite a few 'characters' amongst our forebears. And no, fat B****rd, all families are interesting - even the 'uninteresting' ones.
Here in the UK, it's been estimated that 75% of surnames have become extinct since 1250 - wars, disease, famine, disasters (natural and man-made) have taken their toll over the centuries. We are all special.
For those of English ancestry, there are some free genealogy resources out there:
eg Free BMD Search (incomplete but growing)
Birth, marriage and death indexes are also being added per county:
eg Lancashire, Cheshire to name but two.