Surnames, Genes and Genealogy
Tuesdays, 19 June - 17 July 2001, 11.00-11.30 a.m. 

Series produced by Sandra Sykes, BBC Natural History Unit Radio Factsheet written and compiled by David Hey 

Programme 1: There's only one Mr Sykes
Programme 2: Mapping your surname
Programme 3: Understanding your family roots
Programme 4: Going through the 1800 barrier
Programme 5: DNA - the final frontier?
Origins of surnames
The Black Death
The distribution of surnames
Tracing your family tree
Books and magazines
Further information

The idea that many of our English surnames could have a single origin may seem unlikely, but it is not new. It was implicit in The Homes of Family Names (1890) by H. B. Guppy, and raised as a possibility by Sir Anthony Wagner in English Genealogy (1960). Surname specialist George Redmonds, the presenter of the series, had been mulling over this idea in the 1960s, and in his book Yorkshire West Riding (1973) he argued that many of the distinctive names of the West Riding - names such as Ackroyd, Barraclough, Gledhill and Murgatroyd - each started with just one man in the Middle Ages. By tracing a family tree and by mapping the places in which surnames were found at different times in the past he was able to show where a name began six or seven hundred years ago. But the  surviving records from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries - the time when many surnames became hereditary - were rarely detailed enough to prove his theory with certainty. Now a new approach using DNA tests, pioneered by Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, is making great strides in finding the origins of surnames and is adding powerful support to the theory that very many surnames throughout the land did indeed start with just one family. 
This series looks at the ways in which historians, linguists and geneticists are pooling their knowledge to investigate how surnames began, to see how they spread and to find out how they sometimes changed over time. These specialists are joined by professional genealogists and amateur family historians who tell some remarkable stories and show that tracing a family name can be enjoyable and not just hard work. 

Programme 1: There's only one Mr Sykes
There are some very obvious methods of tracing your family tree. You have only to look at telephone directories to see that most people named Sykes live in Yorkshire or the neighbouring counties of Lancashire and Cheshire. Once you start looking for the name further back in time you find it in fewer places. In the Middle Ages, when surnames began, there were Sykeses in different parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire and historians were reluctant therefore to accept the idea that the surname might have a single origin. As the name is taken from a feature of the landscape - a medieval drainage ditch in an open field system - it seemed that Sykes could have arisen independently in different places. There the matter rested until a geneticist applied his own special techniques to the problem. 
DNA tests pioneered by Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, have now offered strong support to the idea that his own family name had a single-family origin. A cheek cell sample is sufficient to provide information about the Y chromosome that each man inherits from his male ancestors. Of such samples sent to Bryan Sykes, around half of fifty male Sykeses had exactly the same Y chromosome, evidence suggesting that they came from a common ancestor. The Y chromosome patterns among the other half resembled those of the general population, and this was taken to mean that they had been introduced to the Sykes family by adoption, by assuming the name or by illegitimacy - the three causes being linked together as 'non-paternity events'. 
This points strongly to one original Mr Sykes, but there are experts who put forward other theories. There may, for example, have been several founders, with one line being much more prolific than all the others. These less prolific lines, who simply had fewer sons, would be indistinguishable from non-paternity events. 
Even if these lines do exist, the fact remains that the majority of present-day Sykeses can trace their origins back to a family living in Slaithwaite, just outside Huddersfield, in the fifteenth century, or, Bryan Sykes contends, further back to 1280 when William del Sykes held land nine miles east in Flockton. All this was a result of an inquisitive experiment Bryan Sykes carried out to find out whether or not he was related to Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman of  pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline. The tests proved that he is! There are far-reaching consequences of his success. And the intriguing question which followed was whether this type of DNA analysis could shed as much light on the origins of surnames other than Sykes. 
There have been hereditary surnames since the Norman Conquest, and the process became widespread in the two or three centuries that followed. However, when the Black Death killed over forty per cent of the population, in 1348-50, many of these newly-formed surnames were destroyed. It is those which survived which are important. As the population recovered, in Tudor and Stuart times, names such as Sykes became much more common and also began to spread in their surrounding neighbourhoods. Maps showing the distribution of a surname at various times in the past are a useful guide to the original home of a family name. Unfortunately we still cannot pinpoint where the original Mr Sykes lived because most medieval drainage ditches have now disappeared, but there is renewed interest in DNA-testing other Sykeses from Wharfedale or Cumbria who may be from the less prolific lines. 

Programme 2: Mapping your surname
Can we ever hope to find the exact place where our surname began? For some names the answer is yes. They can be located by mapping their distribution at various times in the past and by tracing a family tree as far back as possible. The surname Hey, for example, is still found chiefly in West Yorkshire and neighbouring parts of East Lancashire. Much further back in time, medieval manor court rolls show that it was restricted to places on the edge of the moors between Huddersfield and Halifax. A 'hey' was a hedged enclosure, and although there were many of these, only one gave rise to the surname. This was only discovered when a map of 1607 was used to identify a hey in the moorland valley of Scammonden. The boundaries of the enclosure which are known to have given rise to the surname can still be followed on the ground today; the ditch and bank which surrounded the original farm are still there and, as the 1607 map suggests, the area is exactly 18 acres. 
Although people moved frequently in earlier centuries, most of them did not travel far. Instead they stayed for the most part within their own neighbourhoods - regions that were  bounded by the nearest market towns. Maps of surnames that were recorded in the 1881 census suggest that names of all kinds may have a single-family origin, even nicknames such as Round (West Midlands) or Bunyan (Bedfordshire). And where names such as Redhead had more than one origin, DNA evidence can show how limited these are in number. Surprisingly, some of the most common occupational names also have interesting distributions, including Walker, Barker and even Smith, which is more popular in eastern England than in the west. However, many of the most prolific Welsh and Scottish names - Evans and MacDonald for example - pose quite different problems for family historians and geneticists. 
But sometimes a surname could migrate far from its place of origin. Blencowe derives from a village in Cumbria, but these days most are found in Northamptonshire. This is because in the fifteenth century Adam de Blencowe moved from Cumbria to Marston St Lawrence, near Banbury. Any modern-day Blencowe tracing their family tree might see the Northamptonshire cluster and mistakenly deduce the origins of the surname as being in that part of the country. 

Programme 3: Understanding your family roots
We can sometimes identify the actual man or woman whose personal name became a surname several centuries ago. A thirteenth-century Oddi de Gasegill is likely to be the ancestor of all the Oddys/Oddies, and evidence suggests that Dionisia, a formidable woman who once lived in Linthwaite in the Colne Valley, is the ancestor of the Dysons. If we can trace a family tree back to the Middle Ages and if we map the distribution of the surname at different points in time, we can get a clear idea of where it came from. Where it started with a woman such as Dionisia, the surname identifies her male descendants, who can be traced by DNA inherited through the Y chromosome, but female lines can be followed too, through the patterns formed by mitochondrial DNA, which passes from mothers to daughters. 
Spectacular results have been achieved with the DNA samples that proved the identity of the female descendants of Priscilla Mullins, who left for America on the Mayflower. Now the Great Migration Study Project, sponsored by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is attempting to trace the genealogies of the 5,000 or so families that crossed the Atlantic in the 1630s, and American genealogists have a powerful new tool to use alongside traditional ones. 
Some families had several sons, who in turn had several sons, and so their surnames became prolific in the areas around their origins. The distinctive names of thriving districts such as West Yorkshire and East Lancashire multiplied as the local population expanded in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, becoming even more common as population levels soared during the Industrial Revolution. Kevin Schürer's maps at the UK Data Archive of surname distributions in the 1881 census and in modern electoral rolls show how prolific some local family names became and how they help to form the distinctive characters of England's many regions. 
Surnames can also provide a strong clue to the origins of migrants who left the family home and settled in more distant parts of the country or overseas. The Tordoffs, for example, did not spread in their original neighbourhood on the Solway Firth, but expanded rapidly once they had moved to Wibsey, near Bradford. The Addymans, who are all said to descend from an orphan boy who lived three hundred years ago, did not become more numerous until they moved to Nidderdale. Migrations have traditionally been traced by genealogical methods, but DNA tests and maps showing the distribution of a surname at different points of time are powerful new aids to research. Tracing a family name has become a multi-disciplinary activity. 

Programme 4: Going through the 1800 barrier
There had been 'second' names even among the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, although they were usually content with just a personal name for these were sufficiently varied to distinguish one person from another. Historians and linguists, however, still debate the exact times of the origins of surnames introduced by the Norman barons. No one knows exactly why they became hereditary, and the circumstances in which individuals chose their name - or had it chosen for them by their neighbours - are seldom explicit. In fact most ordinary people did not acquire a fixed, hereditary surname until the thirteenth or fourteenth century, as the fashion spread gradually down the social scale, and some names were not formed until much later. The Welsh had their own naming system until they turned to English methods after the Act of Union in 1536. The Lowland Scots shared northern English practices, but the Gaelic tradition in Ireland and Highland Scotland was very different. 
We need the special skills of linguists to see how surnames were formed and how they have changed over the centuries. Only they can identify the Anglo-Saxon and Viking personal names that became surnames or the pet forms of names that were formed from Norman French and Middle English. They can also tell us which words changed their meaning over time, so that we know that Daft meant 'meek', not 'silly', when the surname was formed and that Freelove was an Anglo-Saxon personal name, not a nickname for a philanderer. 
The traditional approach of the linguist was to find the earliest recorded examples of names so as to explain their meaning, and that remains a valid principle. Unfortunately no attempt was made to establish a direct link between those early forms and modern surnames, and no account was taken of the Black Death, which had a huge impact on the stock of English family names, destroying many and confining others to just one family. Distribution maps can demonstrate how unlikely it is that many of those early references have any connection at all with the surnames they are said to explain. It is often painstaking genealogical work which reveals how names have changed over the centuries: Smallbehind became the more acceptable Smallbent, Vavasour was transformed into Bavister, and Gotobed was exchanged for Godfrey. But genealogists are often frustrated by the lack of adequate records before the reign of Queen Victoria in their search for ancestors. Those gaps in our knowledge may now be filled by DNA tests, which offer a new approach - one which can be used along with more traditional methods in our search for the origin of a family name and so help in the tracing of a family tree. 

Programme 5: DNA - the final frontier?
Could DNA tests resolve the origins of the Pomeroys? A huge amount of traditional genealogical research had raised the possibility of a single-family origin for everyone bearing this name. The DNA patterns destroyed this theory, but the test results did point to some unproven relationships that have opened up new lines of enquiry for family historians. 
A growing number of genealogists, who use the internet and can manipulate databases, welcome the evidence of genetics but regard DNA testing as just another tool with which to construct a family tree. They point out that usually only one in four of our grandparents was born with our surname and that the proportion soon becomes much smaller as you go back in time. Family historians get a more rounded picture by tracing all their family lines back to their sixteen great-great-grandparents, but DNA brings new power to the task of finding the home of a family name - the ultimate quest for the genealogist who has traced a family back as far as the records allow. 
Every family name has its own story, even if it is a common one. A first task is to find the current and past distribution of the name, for it is surprising how many families are rooted in or near the places where they were first recorded in the Middle Ages. Then we have to trace a family back in time, using the well-known sources and methods of the genealogist. Once we get past the civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths (from 1837) and census enumerators' books (from 1841), we have to rely on parish registers, wills and a variety of miscellaneous records. With luck and perseverance these might take us back to the sixteenth century. A full set of manorial records might get us further. Fortunately, by that time most surnames are found close to their place of origin. You do not have to be a trained geneticist or an expert in old languages to find the home of your family name, but their techniques have enriched our understanding of how surnames began and how they spread. 

The distribution of surnames
Every part of England has its distinctive surnames which were formed locally back in the Middle Ages. The present and past distributions of a name very often point to the place where it originated, so it is worth beginning an enquiry into a surname by mapping the places where it was found at different points in time. 
Telephone directories are the easiest source to start with, for they cover a very large proportion of the population. A simple count of the number of phone book entries for domestic users throughout the United Kingdom can produce some striking results. They show, for instance, that the Hogbens mostly live in Kent, the Penhaligons in Cornwall, the Toyntons in Lincolnshire and the Barracloughs in West Yorkshire. Care must be taken with the counting, for current directories often duplicate entries by overlapping with neighbouring districts, and it is often hard to decide which names are simply variant spellings and which are derived from another source. A map of the United Kingdom divided into the telephone districts can be drawn from the maps provided in each directory and the number of entries for a name can be marked on them. Alternatively, access to the telephone directory on CD-Rom will provide a complete list of current residential subscribers. We need to be aware that the raw data from simple counts of entries can be skewed by the concentrations of people living in the major urban areas, but sophisticated statistical methods are not necessary if all we want is to see where a surname is found. 
Kevin Schürer of the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex has produced computerised maps of all the surnames recorded on modern electoral rolls and in the national census of 1881. These can be seen on screens in the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum, London, simply by typing in a name. Each spelling is treated as a different name, so variant forms have to be looked at to get complete coverage. The maps show that surname distributions in 1881 were not markedly different from today. The 1881 census for the whole of Britain has been transcribed and indexed on CD-Rom, which enables users to make their own maps of surname distributions. 
Distribution maps of surnames in England and Wales at the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign, just before railways made travelling quicker and cheaper, can be made from the indexes of the civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths, which are held at the Family Records Centre in London. Microfiche copies of these indexes are available at record offices and libraries and can be purchased individually. In practice, the indexes of burials for a five-year period beginning 1 January 1842 are the easiest to use. Civil registration districts were basically the same as census enumerators' districts so, despite anomalies and some later changes, comparisons can be made with the 1881 distributions. 
Further back in time, the data is less comprehensive. The hearth tax returns of the 1660s and 1670s are the best source, for they list thousands of names in every county. They record heads of households in each township, the basic unit of local government at the time, though in many places those who were too poor to pay the tax were not recorded. The fullest returns in about half the counties of England and Wales have been published and within a few years the coverage should be complete. The returns (at record offices) can be used to locate surnames at a point in time that comes halfway between the period of surname formation and the present day. Armed with our maps, we can then begin to trace family names by traditional genealogical methods back towards their source. 

Tracing your family tree
The most difficult part is deciding to get started - because once you have, you will get carried along with the desire to find out more. Nowadays there are all sorts of record offices, libraries, societies and books to help you, and for those with computers more and more records are becoming available on the internet or on CD-Rom. 
The golden rule is to start with what you know and work backwards. Take out all the old photographs, birth, marriage and death certificates, and other mementoes that you have in your possession, and interview the older members of your family. Make sure you write everything down with a note of where the information came from, for some of the clues will not be obvious at first sight. You might hear a romantic tale which turns out to be nonsense, but you will usually get some worthwhile leads. Joining the appropriate family history society (there are local ones all over the country) will put you in contact with fellow enthusiasts and point you in the right direction. 
The information on an ancestor's gravestone may explain relationships and the age at death will tell you the year they were born. But you will be lucky to find early tombstones, for only the rich were buried inside a church and many ordinary folk were interred in unmarked graves in the churchyard. The records of the public cemeteries which started in the nineteenth century can sometimes be consulted at the site but many have been deposited at the local record office. 
It is now time to visit your local record office or reference library. They will usually have microfiche copies of the indexes of births, marriages and deaths registered in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day. Or you can see the original indexes in the Family Records Centre in London. The Scottish indexes (from 1855) can be seen at the General Register Office for Scotland or on the internet. Having identified an ancestor, you can then purchase a copy of the certificate. A birth certificate will record place of birth and the names of parents, a marriage certificate the names of husband and wife and their parents, and from 1866 death certificates give the age at death, all of which are pointers to further research. 
The Family Records Centre and the General Register for Scotland also have microfilm or microfiche copies of the national census returns from 1841 to 1891 and local record offices and reference libraries have copies for their own districts. These returns give personal details of each member of a household and from 1851 they give exact ages and places of birth. The 1881 census is the easiest to use as it has been indexed and is available on CD-Rom and microfiche. A census is taken every ten years, but the pledge of confidentiality that is made means that we cannot see the personal entries until 100 years have passed. When the 1901 census is released on 2 January 2002 the Public Record Office will make it available on the internet. 
Getting back further than the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign is more difficult. Parish and nonconformist registers are our major source and most have been deposited at the appropriate local record office. The system of registering baptisms, marriages and burials began in 1538, but few registers survive as far back as that. Gaps are sometimes covered by the copies known as Bishop's Transcripts and many early registers have been published. From 1 January 1813 the Church of England registers follow a standard format, but in earlier times they vary considerably in the amount of information they give and become increasingly difficult to read. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) have indexed many registers and have made them freely available to anyone in the form of the International Genealogical Index (IGI), which is generally accessible at record offices and also on the internet. 
Wills are another major source in national and local record offices. During the Middle Ages only the richer people made wills, but from the sixteenth century onwards ordinary farmers and craftsmen, and even some labourers, bequeathed their property in this way. Wills were originally proved by the Church but in 1858 the State took over responsibility. 
These records are our starting points, but many other sources help us to fill out the picture. Record offices and reference libraries have a huge range: commercial and trade directories, newspapers, estate rentals and surveys, manor court rolls, enclosure and tithe awards, apprenticeship and freemen lists, taxation returns and information about the less fortunate members of society in the poor law records. 
For many family historians, identifying the origin and meaning of their surname is the ultimate quest. The five Surnames, Genes and Genealogy programmes are designed to show you how to do just that. 
For more on getting started in family history, see: 

The Black Death
The Black Death was the popular name given to a virulent outbreak of bubonic plague that swept across most of Europe between 1348 and 1352. It arrived in Britain at Melcombe in Weymouth Bay, Dorset, in June 1348 and its worst effects were felt throughout the land during the following year. The number of people who were killed is not known, but historians think that between a third and a half of the population succumbed. Current estimates, based on detailed research into admittedly patchy sources such as surviving manorial records, suggest that more than forty per cent died. The plague struck again in 1360-2 and 1369 and remained endemic until its final great outbreak in 1665. 
The Black Death had enormous social consequences. Some of the families that survived were able to buy or rent more land and to prosper, while humble labourers got higher wages and obtained land of their own. The national population had risen considerably during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries to between four and five million, but after the disaster of the Black Death it took three centuries to recover to this level. 
The majority of English people had acquired hereditary surnames before the Black Death. The poorer families in the northern half of the country were the only major group that had not yet accepted the new fashion; they were the ones who added -son to their father's name to form a distinctive type of surname in the second half of the fourteenth century. The deaths of so many people meant that large numbers of surnames withered. Many families that once shared the same surname with others now became the sole bearers of the name. Early references to a surname in different parts of the country from where the name was found later are usually misleading because they did not survive the Black Death. 

Origins of surnames
Before the Norman Conquest English people did not have hereditary surnames. They were usually known just by a personal name. If they had a nickname as well, this was not passed on to their children. It was the Norman barons who introduced surnames into this country, and the fashion gradually spread to other families, but it was a long drawn out process. Most English people and Lowland Scots had hereditary surnames by 1400, but new surnames were still being formed much later and immigrants brought a fresh supply. Many Irish and Highland Scottish names are derived from Gaelic personal names, as are those of the Welsh, who began to adopt English-type surnames after the union of the two countries in 1536. 
After the Norman Conquest the numerous personal names that had been used by the English fell out of favour and a narrow choice of names became available. By the fourteenth century half the men in a typical village were called either John or William and most of the rest were called Thomas, Richard, Robert or Henry. This was indeed the period when every Tom, Dick and Harry acquired a surname. From soon after the Conquest, therefore, men were distinguished from their neighbours by a second name (a 'by-name'), but the circumstances in which these names were passed on to their descendants were complicated. Fashion played a part, as did the new practice of keeping written records such as manor court rolls, but the inheritance of a name undoubtedly had much to do with the inheritance of property, status or occupation. 
Some of the personal names that were in use before the Norman Conquest survived long enough to be inherited directly as surnames, including the Anglo-Saxon Cobbold and the Viking Oddi, both of which may have single-family origins. In other cases a son acquired his surname by adding -s or -son to his father's name. The -s method was favoured in the south of England and in the western border counties (where the practice was later copied by the Welsh), while -son was preferred in the northern half of England and lowland Scotland and was a late development of the second half of the fourteenth century. Occasionally, -son was added to a mother's name, as in Mallinson or Tillotson - both from Matilda. 
The small pool of personal names meant that pet forms and shortened versions were commonly used and that many of these became surnames. Some were rhyming forms, such as Dobson, Hobson and Robson (based on the pet form of Robert). Others were pet forms with -kin, -cock or -ot added. The son of William might therefore end up with the surname Williams or Williamson, but other possibilities include Will, Willett, Wills, Willis, Willimott, Wilson, Wilkins, Wilkinson, Wilcox or Wilcockson. 
Sometimes a nickname became a hereditary surname. Names such as Fox, from the animal, or White, perhaps from the hair or complexion, are widespread, but the pronounced regional distribution of names such as Nice in Essex or Wildgoose in Derbyshire suggests single-family origins. In some cases nicknames are from Norman French words, such as Papillon (butterfly) or Foljambe (deformed leg). 
Other surnames were formed from a person's job or trade. Names such as Cook, Turner or Wright are very common, but the rarer occupational names are sometimes as restricted in their distribution as other names that originated with only one or two families. The Arkwrights (makers of arks or chests) are from Lancashire, the Crappers (croppers) and Frobishers (furbishers or cleaners of armour) are from Yorkshire, the Dymonds (dairymen) are from Devon. On the other hand, some distinctive names were influenced by more prolific occupational names, and names which started out as Goldsmith, Combsmith or Smithson may have become Smith - a further complication when Smith's distribution is being considered. 
A large group of surnames are derived from place names, often minor ones. Names of prominent towns and villages, such as Pickering and Bedford, might be given to migrants who left at the period of surname formation, but in other cases they were the names of local lords of the manor. Many more people took the name of their farm or hamlet. In counties where settlement was scattered, up to half the families took their names in this way - one reason why the Pennines and Devon have so many distinctive names. Features of the landscape which gave rise to surnames, again via settlement sites, include some which are common, e.g. Green, Hill or Wood, as well as others such as Fieldsend or Greenwood which may have a single source. 
We shall never know why families chose one type of surname rather than another. Often they had no choice in the matter, for their names were bestowed by their neighbours. Although the national population was considerably lower in the Middle Ages than it is today, far more surnames were then in use. Many of them, however, did not survive the Black Death. 

Within our DNA we all carry a message from our ancestors in every cell of our body. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at Oxford University, claims that almost all contemporary Europeans are the direct descendants of just seven women, who lived at different times over the last 45,000 years. These 'Seven Daughters of Eve' have been identified by his work on mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mothers to daughters. 
Bryan Sykes has now turned his attention to the Y chromosome that is passed from fathers to sons with little or no change over the generations. Tens of thousands of different Y chromosomes have evolved over millions of years, so that each male line has its own identifiable genetic 'fingerprint'. As surnames too are inherited through the male line, all men with the same surname may also share the same DNA on the Y chromosome. This will be true only where a surname has a single-family origin back in the Middle Ages, and where there has been no illegitimacy or the adoption of the surname by stepchildren. 
The theory is tested by taking cheek cell samples from men sharing the same surname and from others in random control groups. The procedure is painless and easy. The huge advances that have been made in understanding how genetic directions are transmitted from one generation to the next is enabling scientists to identify the distinctive patterns that are passed down in the male line of each family. 
The DNA tests give strong support to the idea that many of our surnames have single-family origins, and with commoner names they can point to close relationships that might otherwise be difficult to prove. This new type of information is welcomed by historians who have argued that many surnames have just one source but who have not usually been able to prove their arguments because of inadequate historical records. But a few reservations are expressed. People with the same name who were not as prolific might get overlooked, and could it be that in some cases the progenitor of a distinctive DNA pattern was himself illegitimate and not the true originator of the surname? DNA testing is a major new tool for family historians, but it has to be examined just as critically as the traditional historical sources. 

Books and magazines
The books listed should be available through booksellers or your local library. Some may currently be out of print. 
The following have online bookshops specialising in family and local history publications: 
The Society of Genealogists:
The Federation of Family History Societies:
Family Tree Magazine:
For introductions to the history and distribution of surnames: 
David Hey, Family Names and Family History (Hambledon and London, 2000) 
Richard McKinley, A History of British Surnames (Longman, 1990) 
Colin D. Rogers, The Surname Detective (Manchester University Press, 1995) 
On the ways in which surnames have changed over time: 
George Redmonds, Surnames and Genealogy: A New Approach (reprint, 2001, Round Tower Books, PO Box 12407, Fort Wayne, IN 46863-2407, USA) 
On the DNA approach: 
Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve (Bantam Press, 2001) 
Bryan Sykes, ed., The Human Inheritance: Genes, Language and Evolution (Oxford University Press, 1999) 
Alan Savin, DNA for Family Historians (published by the author, 9 Bannard Road, Maidenhead SL6 4NG) 
The first book to argue the single-family origins of many of our surnames was: 
George Redmonds, Yorkshire West Riding (English Surnames Series, Phillimore, 1973) 
The other books in the English Surnames Series are: 
Richard McKinley, Norfolk and Suffolk Surnames in the Middle Ages (Phillimore, 1975) 
Richard McKinley, The Surnames of Oxfordshire (Leopard's Head Press, 1977) 
Richard McKinley, The Surnames of Lancashire (Leopard's Head Press, 1981) 
Richard McKinley, The Surnames of Sussex (Leopard's Head Press, 1988) 
David Postles, The Surnames of Devon (Leopard's Head Press, 1995) 
David Postles, The Surnames of Leicestershire and Rutland (Leopard's Head Press, 1999) 
The standard dictionaries of English surnames are: 
P.H. Reaney and R. M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames (Oxford University Press, 1997) 
Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of Surnames (Oxford University Press, new edn 1997) 
For other countries in the British Isles: 
Robert Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames (Blackstaff Press, new edn 1997) 
George F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland (Birlinn, 1996) 
Edward MacLysaght, Surnames of Ireland (Irish Academic Press, sixth edition, 1991) 
T.J. and Prys Morgan, Welsh Surnames (University of Wales Press, 1985) 
John and Sheila Rowlands, The Surnames of Wales (Federation of Family History Societies, 1996) 
On how to trace a family tree: 
Anthony J. Camp, First Steps in Family History (Society of Genealogists, 3rd edn, 1998) 
Jean Cole, Tracing Your Family Tree (Countryside Books, 3rd edn, 2000) 
Mark D. Herber, Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History (Sutton Publishing, 1997) 
David Hey, The Oxford Guide to Family History (Oxford University Press, 1998) 
Explore Your Family's Past (Reader's Digest, 2000) 

Magazines devoted to family history 
Published bi-monthly by the Public Record Office; available on subscription from: 
Ancestors, Wharncliffe Publishing Limited, The Drill Hall, Eastgate, Barnsley S70 2EU 
Tel: 01226 734627 
Or subscribe online at:
Computers in Genealogy 
Published quarterly by the Society of Genealogists; available on subscription from: 
Computers in Genealogy, The Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA 
Tel: 020 7251 8799. Fax: 020 7250 1800 
Or subscribe online at:
Family Tree Magazine 
Practical Family History (aimed at beginners) 
Both published monthly, from newsagents or on subscription from: 
Family Tree Magazine, 61 Great Whyte, Ramsey, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE17 1HL 
Tel: 01487 814050. Fax: 01487 711361 
Or subscribe online at:
Family Tree Magazine also has a mail order and online book service. 
Family History Monthly 
Published monthly, from newsagents or on subscription from: 
Family History Monthly, 43–45 St Mary’s Road, Ealing, London W5 5RQ 

Further information
Researching surnames 
Many surnames are the subject of one-name studies, which research all occurrences of a surname rather than just those in a particular family tree. Many of these projects are registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies. The Register can be searched online. See below for contact details. Surnames mentioned in the programmes that are registered with the Guild: Blencowe, Pomeroy, Lockwood, Tordoff, Oddie. 
Other ways of contacting people researching surnames you may be interested in include: 

  • Join a family history society - contact the Federation of Family History Societies for details of one in the appropriate area. 
  • Search online at sites such as: and  
  • Consult a directory - the following can be seen at record offices, libraries, etc. and can also be purchased from the Federation of Family History Societies and the Society of Genealogists. 
The Genealogical Research Directory (GRD) - published in book form and on CD-Rom. Order from: Mrs Elizabeth Simpson, 2 Stella Grove, Tollerton, Notts NG12 4EY. Website: 
British Isles Genealogical Register (Big R) - available on microfiche and CD-Rom. 

Article on DNA and the Family Historian: 
In the UK, DNA tests are offered by Oxford Ancestors, a company whose services are built on the research work of Bryan Sykes and his team at Oxford. Contact: 
Oxford Ancestors Ltd, Oxford BioBusiness Centre, Littlemore Park, Oxford OX4 4SS 
Other companies offering DNA tests include: 
Family Tree DNA:
DNA Security Inc: Tel: 0845 130 2700 
Research into the Y chromosome is also being carried out by Mark Jobling at the University of Leicester Department of Genetics. His article on surnames and genetics is available for download from the website:

The 1881 census on CD-Rom 
This may be available at record offices and family history centres, or the set can be purchased from: 
LDS Church Distribution Centre, 399 Garretts Green Lane, Birmingham B33 0UH 
Tel: 08700 10 20 51. Fax: 08700 10 20 52 

Surname maps 
Kevin Schürer's maps of surname distributions are available from the History Data Service. For details and charges, contact: 
History Data Service, UK Data Archive, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ 
Tel: 01206 872326. Fax: 01206 872003 

Archives, organisations and websites 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) 
The LDS (the Mormons) have family history centres all over the country which can give help and advice with research. Documents and databases that can be consulted include the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which has millions of entries - those from Britain are mainly from parish and nonconformist registers. Lists of centres are on both of the following websites. 
LDS in the UK:
LDS FamilySearch (includes the IGI, searchable online):

Family History Online 
A portal site that aims to give easy access to information and links to the main UK family history websites.

Family Records Centre 
1 Myddelton Street, London EC1R 1UW 
Tel: 020 8392 5300. Fax: 020 8392 5307. Textphone: 020 8392 5308 
Part of the Public Record Office. Its records include indexes of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales since 1837, and censuses 1841-1891. 

Federation of Family History Societies 
PO Box 2425, Coventry CV5 6YX 
For details of family history societies around the UK, publications, and leaflets on getting started in family history. Has an online bookshop. 

General Register Office for Scotland 
New Register House, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YT 
Tel: 0131 334 0380 
Its records include indexes of Scottish births, marriages and deaths, and census returns. Indexes are accessible online on a pay-per-view basis at Scots Origins:

General Register Office (Northern Ireland) 
Oxford House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL 
Tel: 028 9025 2021 
For registers of births and deaths from 1864 and marriages from 1845. 

GENUKI (UK and Ireland Genealogy) 
Has a mass of information about getting started in genealogy and about record sources, plus links to organisations and societies and lists of surnames being researched. 

Guild of One-Name Studies 
Box G, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA 
Contact the Guild for details of one-name study projects, or see their Register online. 

National Archives of Scotland 
General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YY 
Tel: 0131 535 1334. Fax: 0131 535 1328 

National Genealogical Society 
4527 17th Street North, Arlington, Virginia, 22207-2399, USA 

Public Record Office 
Kew, Surrey TW9 4DU 
Tel: 020 8392 5200. Fax: 020 8878 8905 
The national archives of England and Wales. Catalogue (over 8 million document references) and much other information available online.

Scottish Association of Family History Societies 
Hon. Secretary: Alan J.L. MacLeod, 51/3 Mortonhall Road, Edinburgh EH9 2HN 
For details of family history societies in Scotland.

Society of Genealogists 
14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA 
Tel: 020 7251 8799. Fax: 020 7250 1800 
Has a large library for research plus a bookshop (also mail order and online), and organises major family history fairs annually. 

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Posted by Hauke Wiebe, Edinburgh/Scotland