Genes and Genealogy
19 June - 17 July 2001, 11.00-11.30 a.m.
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
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.
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
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.
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'.
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Programme 4: Going through the 1800 barrier
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Tracing your family tree
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
more on getting started in family history, see:
The Black Death
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
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.
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
Origins of surnames
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
books listed should be available through booksellers or your local library.
Some may currently be out of print.
following have online bookshops specialising in family and local history
Society of Genealogists: www.sog.org.uk
Federation of Family History Societies: www.ffhs.co.uk
Tree Magazine: www.family-tree.co.uk
introductions to the history and distribution of surnames:
Hey, Family Names and Family History (Hambledon and London, 2000)
McKinley, A History of British Surnames (Longman, 1990)
D. Rogers, The Surname Detective (Manchester University Press, 1995)
the ways in which surnames have changed over time:
Redmonds, Surnames and Genealogy: A New Approach (reprint, 2001, Round Tower
Books, PO Box 12407, Fort Wayne, IN 46863-2407, USA)
the DNA approach:
Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve (Bantam Press, 2001)
Sykes, ed., The Human Inheritance: Genes, Language and Evolution (Oxford
University Press, 1999)
Savin, DNA for Family Historians (published by the author, 9 Bannard Road,
Maidenhead SL6 4NG)
first book to argue the single-family origins of many of our surnames was:
Redmonds, Yorkshire West Riding (English Surnames Series, Phillimore, 1973)
other books in the English Surnames Series are:
McKinley, Norfolk and Suffolk Surnames in the Middle Ages (Phillimore, 1975)
McKinley, The Surnames of Oxfordshire (Leopard's Head Press, 1977)
McKinley, The Surnames of Lancashire (Leopard's Head Press, 1981)
McKinley, The Surnames of Sussex (Leopard's Head Press, 1988)
Postles, The Surnames of Devon (Leopard's Head Press, 1995)
Postles, The Surnames of Leicestershire and Rutland (Leopard's Head Press,
standard dictionaries of English surnames are:
Reaney and R. M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames (Oxford University
Hanks and Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of Surnames (Oxford University Press,
new edn 1997)
other countries in the British Isles:
Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames (Blackstaff Press, new edn 1997)
F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland (Birlinn, 1996)
MacLysaght, Surnames of Ireland (Irish Academic Press, sixth edition, 1991)
and Prys Morgan, Welsh Surnames (University of Wales Press, 1985)
and Sheila Rowlands, The Surnames of Wales (Federation of Family History
how to trace a family tree:
J. Camp, First Steps in Family History (Society of Genealogists, 3rd edn,
Cole, Tracing Your Family Tree (Countryside Books, 3rd edn, 2000)
D. Herber, Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and
Family History (Sutton Publishing, 1997)
Hey, The Oxford Guide to Family History (Oxford University Press, 1998)
Your Family's Past (Reader's Digest, 2000)
Magazines devoted to family history
bi-monthly by the Public Record Office; available on subscription from:
Wharncliffe Publishing Limited, The Drill Hall, Eastgate, Barnsley S70 2EU
subscribe online at: www.pro.gov.uk
quarterly by the Society of Genealogists; available on subscription from:
in Genealogy, The Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell
Road, London EC1M 7BA
020 7251 8799. Fax: 020 7250 1800
subscribe online at: www.sog.org.uk
Family History (aimed at beginners)
published monthly, from newsagents or on subscription from:
Tree Magazine, 61 Great Whyte, Ramsey, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE17 1HL
01487 814050. Fax: 01487 711361
subscribe online at: www.family-tree.co.uk
Tree Magazine also has a mail order and online book service.
monthly, from newsagents or on subscription from:
History Monthly, 43–45 St Mary’s Road, Ealing, London W5 5RQ
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.
ways of contacting people researching surnames you may be interested in include:
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: members.ozemail.com.au/~grdxxx/
a family history society - contact the Federation of Family History Societies
for details of one in the appropriate area.
online at sites such as:
www.genuki.org.uk and www.rootsweb.com
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.
Isles Genealogical Register (Big R) - available on microfiche and CD-Rom.
on DNA and the Family Historian: www.genuki.org.uk/big/genetics.html
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:
Ancestors Ltd, Oxford BioBusiness Centre, Littlemore Park, Oxford OX4 4SS
companies offering DNA tests include:
Tree DNA: www.familytreedna.com
Security Inc: www.ezdna.com Tel: 0845 130 2700
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:
census on CD-Rom
may be available at record offices and family history centres, or the set
can be purchased from:
Church Distribution Centre, 399 Garretts Green Lane, Birmingham B33 0UH
08700 10 20 51. Fax: 08700 10 20 52
Schürer's maps of surname distributions are available from the History
Data Service. For details and charges, contact:
Data Service, UK Data Archive, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ
01206 872326. Fax: 01206 872003
organisations and websites
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)
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.
in the UK: www.lds.org.uk/genealogy/
FamilySearch (includes the IGI, searchable online):
portal site that aims to give easy access to information and links to the
main UK family history websites.
Myddelton Street, London EC1R 1UW
020 8392 5300. Fax: 020 8392 5307. Textphone: 020 8392 5308
of the Public Record Office. Its records include indexes of births, marriages
and deaths in England and Wales since 1837, and censuses 1841-1891.
of Family History Societies
Box 2425, Coventry CV5 6YX
details of family history societies around the UK, publications, and leaflets
on getting started in family history. Has an online bookshop.
Register Office for Scotland
Register House, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YT
0131 334 0380
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:
Register Office (Northern Ireland)
House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL
028 9025 2021
registers of births and deaths from 1864 and marriages from 1845.
(UK and Ireland Genealogy)
a mass of information about getting started in genealogy and about record
sources, plus links to organisations and societies and lists of surnames
of One-Name Studies
G, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA
the Guild for details of one-name study projects, or see their Register online.
Archives of Scotland
Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YY
0131 535 1334. Fax: 0131 535 1328
17th Street North, Arlington, Virginia, 22207-2399, USA
Surrey TW9 4DU
020 8392 5200. Fax: 020 8878 8905
national archives of England and Wales. Catalogue (over 8 million document
references) and much other information available online.
Association of Family History Societies
Secretary: Alan J.L. MacLeod, 51/3 Mortonhall Road, Edinburgh EH9 2HN
details of family history societies in Scotland.
Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA
020 7251 8799. Fax: 020 7250 1800
a large library for research plus a bookshop (also mail order and online),
and organises major family history fairs annually.
note: the BBC accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites.
Posted by Hauke Wiebe, Edinburgh/Scotland