Articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors,
and British History

Where did my surname come from?

list of surnames
Surnames involved in One-Name Studies

A useful resource for possibly identifying the geographic origin of a surname.

Researching your family tree is an interesting hobby, and for some it turns into an obsession with a determination to go back as far as they can. Some people move onto conducting a one-name study on their surname or family name and its variants. In other words, researching people who share the same surname.

One-name studies are obviously an impossible task with a surname like Smith, but an unusual surname can produce some interesting results with a chance of discovering that the name came from a particular area or even an individual village. The use of DNA tests in family history research has provided a boost to one-name studies.

A one-name study may also help a person who has reached a brick wall on their family tree. Collecting information on the surname may help to produce the missing piece of information needed to break down that wall.

For more information on one-name studies go to the Guild of One Name Studies.

Another useful tool is the Great Britain Family Names Profiling website. The website contains the results of a project based at University College London (UCL) which is investigating the distribution of surnames in Great Britain, both current and historic. Click on 'Search for a Surname' and click on 1881 and provide a surname. The result will dusplayed in a map showing the districution of the name based on the 1881 census returns.

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