What is in a name? Well, your family history for starters! Do you have one of the most common surnames in the book – Jones, Smith, or Hughes – or are you a smooth-talking Darcy, pompous Percy, Mandeville or Montgomery, I say Jeeves? Just a few surnames that have been around for some 27 generations.
There are about 45,000 different surnames, each with some history behind it. Researching your family tree may offer some interesting clues as to how, what and where your family started out and what part of the world, national or international, they hail from.
Before the Norman ConquestÂ Brits did not have hereditary surnames: communities were small and people were known to each other byÂ nicknamesÂ or, at a pinch, ‘Oi you’. However, the increase in population made it necessary to distinguish people further. After 1066, the Norman barons introduced surnames to England and the useful practice gradually spread. Thus, trades, nicknames, places of origin and fathersâ namesÂ morphed intoÂ fixed surnames. If you are interested in the derivation of surnames and finding out more about your own, we have some books to help.
First up is The Surname Detective, from the author of that indispensable guide The Family Tree Detective. This guide provides the amateur genealogist or family historian with the skills to research the distribution and history of a surname viaÂ a sample of 100 names, many of them common,Â eachÂ mapped since the Domesday Book in 1086. Read more toÂ find out where namesakes live now, how they moved around the country through time, and how the name originated from a place name, a nickname or an occupation. The book finishes by showing how the distribution of surnames can be studied irrespective of the size of the surrounding population and reaches some interesting conclusions about which names are more reliable guides to migration since the 14th century. Continue reading »