Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

English Family Names

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

English Family Names

Article excerpt


The English of the British Isles has already been put on the map in a number of national and regional atlases. In contrast, atlases of English family names are rather few in number and there are only a very limited number of distributional maps, often without any historical dimension. A team working at my Chair of English Linguistics and Medieval Studies at the University of Bamberg have remedied this situation. Since 2004, a number of publications have appeared, or will appear shortly, that will ultimately lead to a rather comprehensive atlas of English family names. These are: Viereck 2004 (reprinted in an abridged version in 2005a), 2005b, 2005c, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2007/2008, 2008a, 2008b and Barker et al. 2007. English surnames, of course, have come down to us in such enormous numbers that only a selection of them can be dealt with. This contribution is the final paper in the series. It deals with one example each of the main categories mentioned below, namely a--female--personal name, a local surname, a nickname and an occupational surname. Some comments on further research desiderata are made at the end of the paper.

1. Introduction

The study of names has a truly interdisciplinary character as it combines, above all, the genealogist's, human biologist's, historian's, philologist's and linguist's interests.

In England the introduction of family names or surnames was due to an enormous cultural change that followed the Norman Conquest in 1066. By about 1350, everyone in southern and Midland England had a hereditary family name. The process took about one hundred years longer in northern England, much longer in Scotland and several centuries longer in Wales.

Surnames can be divided into the following main categories: Local surnames where locative and topographical surnames can be distinguished, surnames de rived from personal names and those expressing other relationships, surnames of occupation, status or office, and nicknames. In the literature a uniform classification of English surnames does not exist. (1)

2. Databases

As surnames with a long history in England have been chosen, diachronically-oriented databases are of special importance. These are:

1) The International Genealogical Index (IGI) for the periods 1538 to 1850 and the British Isles Vital records index (VRl) for the periods 1538 to 1906.

The IGI is a compilation, consisting mainly of parish register records, published by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons. (2) The VRI is basically an adjusted version of the IGI on CD-ROM and includes approximately 12.3 million records. The VRI has two sets of CD-ROMs; one holds the records for birth and christenings, the other for marriages. Both have been searched and the data have then been combined with the program LDS companion.

2) Decennial censuses

In Britain, censuses have been held since the early 19th century. Of special value are the census enumerator's books of the Census of 1881 provided on CD-ROM by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The census data are much more exact than those of the IGI but they are not flawless either. However, the flaws have been noticed by experts in the field of genealogy.

3) UK-Info Disk V9 2004

With regard to the present-day geography of surnames, a telephone directory was used, namely the UK-Info disk V9 2004, a People-Finder published by iCD-Publishing, London, which covers the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as Ireland. The UK-Info disk combines over 44 million entries compiled from the 2002 and 2003 Electoral Rolls. (3)

3. Mapping procedures

Our maps represent the idea of dialectometry (cf. Viereck et al. 2002), mapping the retrieved data on area fill maps, point maps or pie charts varying in size in order to display areas of higher versus lower concentration of the name and its variants. …

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