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The Science of English Surnames
Today Britain (the island that includes England, Scotland and Wales) has about 1.6 million surnames, which is far in excess of the 420,000 surnames recorded in the 1881 census. In 1881 the population of Great Britain was about 31 million which means that there were on average only 73 individuals with a unique surname, which is surprisingly low. However, many would have been spelling variations of common surnames. These British surnames fall into 6 major classifications:
- Patronyms; are a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor. (‘son of. . .’): Bateson, Jeffreys, Watson, MacGregor (Scottish- ‘son of Gregor’)
- Some patronyms denote group membership: Haldane (‘half-Dane’); Wallace (‘a Celt’)
- Occupations or status: Fisher (fisherman); Wright (maker of machinery or objects); Franklin (feudal status term).
- Specific places: Charlesworth (Derbyshire, England), Darlington (Co. Durham, England), Crick (Northamptonshire, England),
- Landscape features that reflected where ones ancestor lived: Bridges; Ford (river crossing); Southern
- Nicknames or characteristics: Darwin (‘dear friend’); Hodgkin (pet form of Roger); short, tall, Black, Brown.
Whereas in Ireland and parts of Scotland patronyms predominate (denoted by O’ and Mac’), in the rest of Great Britain the other forms of surnames (2 to 6) are in the majority. This means that there tend to be many more ‘founding ancestors’ with English surnames, particularly those associated with occupations, features, and characteristics. However it is still possible to pinpoint one’s English founding ancestor using genetically recurring surname matches that are revealed in a simple painless DNA test (contact me here to find out how). This is because some of these Surnames arose in a single geographical area with a single founding ancestor. Also some are associated with specific places. So discover where the surnames that appear as a DNA match to you first appeared and you'll find an area common to all; that will be the place where your direct male ancestor lived when he first inherited his surname approximately 1000 years ago!
Can it really be that if my surname is York, that my ancestors lived in York when he took his surname? The answer is YES, and if he was living in York, your surname matches revealed upon DNA testing will also localise or originate in York. The only way to find out is to order your DNA test (contact me here to find out how), look at the surnames of the people you match in your DNA test results, examine the census data and see a specific area emerge. And remember, if your ancestor lived there over 1,000 years ago (when he took his surname) then they were most likely there prior to leaving for towns and cities across the world, and your distant relatives probably still live there. That’s the beauty of this approach, once you pinpoint a ‘Paternal Ancestral Genetic Homeland’ you can prove it by DNA testing people with your surname from the pinpointed area. Where will your DNA take you?