English family names.
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.
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)
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. The maps generated with GenMap UK from the IGI/VRI data are predominantly point maps when depicting different time spans. All UK-Info maps have been created with the software PCMap and are accompanied by a table comprising a list of the absolute number of surnames per county.
4.1. Maggs, Meggs, Moggs
Surnames derived from personal names are often called patronymics, which is inadequate because modern surnames are also formed from women's names. One such name is the metronymic Maggs with the variants Meggs and Moggs.
Of the late Latin female personal name Margarita (English Margaret) 'daisy', 'pearl' many surnames were created, which in view of their origin and meaning is anything but surprising. These can be put into several categories of which the most common ones are the following: simple pet forms such as Madge, Margery, Margie or Pegg, with suffix -in: Margin or suffixes -et, -ot: Madgett, Maggot, Margot, Marcher, simple elliptic genitive, here with the meaning 'son of': Margetts, Margretts, Margritts, elliptic genitive of diminutives, here again with the meaning 'son of': Margies, Maggs, Meggs, Moggs, Peggs, a further filial desinence: Marginson, Margerisson, Margisson, Margeson, Margesson, Margetson, Meggison, Megginson (with intrusive n), Megson and corruptions like Marjason.
Reaney and Wilson (1997) list Maggs only, s.v. 'Madge', but not the variants. They, however, attest Mogg without the final -s as a pet-name for Margaret with the first bearers Henry Mogg(e) 1195 in Leicestershire and Gloucestershire. According to this dictionary, Magge 1246 (Lancashire), c. 1248 (Worcestershire), John Magge 1200 (Lincolnshire), 1279 (Huntingdonshire) and John Magges 1327 (Suffolk) were the first bearers of the name with the vowel a.
Maps 4-6 show the distribution of Maggs, Meggs and Moggs from the 16th century down to the 19th century. (4) None of the variants showed any entries in the 16th century in the British Isles. As to Maggs, there were very few hits in the 17th century, all in central southern England. Their number increased rather strongly a century later within the same geographical limits. Only in the 19th century did the geographical spread of Maggs become larger to include even a few entries in Scotland, although the overall number of entries decreased. Historically speaking, Maggs and Meggs show an equal number of occurrences. Moreover, in the 17th and 18th centuries both variants occurred in the same area in central southern England. During the 19th century more Meggs than Maggs travelled to south-eastern England. Compared to Meggs and especially to Maggs, Moggs occurs only very rarely. It is interesting to note that during a considerable period of time all three variants showed up in the same area in central southern England. Although in the general language the same word appeared in quite a variety of spellings during the Early Modern English period of which one spelling eventually won out, the spellings of these family names remained separate and remarkably stable.
Maps 7-9 feature the present-day distribution of Maggs, Meggs and Moggs. Due to the very low number of hits (only 24) Moggs can be discarded altogether. It is surprising that the spelling with o survived at all through all the centuries. Maggs and Meggs still show up mainly in southern England and are thus examples of the extraordinary distributional stability of family names.
Nearly half of all existing surnames may have derived from names of specific places or features of landscape, whether natural or man-made. Thus locative and topographical surnames can be distinguished. The locative surname to be discussed here is Danvers. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, local surnames that derived from English or French places showed the preposition de. This preposition was generally dropped in the South of England at the end of the 14th century. In French surnames beginning with a vowel, however, this de often coalesced with the place-name, as is the case with Disney (from Isigny--Calvados in northern France) or Danvers that derived from French Anvers (Flemish Antwerp). The final -s is retained here. Generally, it is retained or dropped quite arbitrarily in surnames from French place-names. In Reaney and Wilson (1997) the first attestation of Danvers is from 1230 (Ralph de Anuers, Danuers, Berkshire). As Maps 10 and 11 reveal, this family name has always been rare in England. Up to the 19th century the few people from Anvers preferred to settle only in southern England and in the Midlands. Only in the 20th century did the surname spread a little to other parts of the British Isles, its peak distribution still in quite low numbers--being Leicestershire.
The surname Fox has predominantly developed from the expression for an animal. The bearer was given the name due to attributes he shared with the mammal (cf. Cottle 1978: 144). These attributes were usually cunningness, slyness and craftiness. Matthews (1967: 166) gives two further reasons why a person might have been called Fox. Earlier the animal was widely spread and hence easy to chase. As a consequence, Fox became a popular nickname for hunters, especially for foxhunters who specialised in the fur business. Furthermore, Matthews is of the opinion that the resemblance between the hair colour of the animal and the named person plays an important role. In consequence, red-haired individuals were frequently associated with foxes. Ewen (1969: 120) mentions another possibility of origin. According to him, Fox may also be classified as a nickname from the beast depicted on trader's signs or heraldic emblems. This is in contrast to Hanks and Hodges who point out that "there is no evidence (in the shape of early forms with prepositions) to suggest that it was ever derived from a house sign" (1988: 191).
Fox is the most common surname referring to the mammal. Reaney and Wilson (1997) attest the following first bearers of the name: Touefox (no date) Lincolnshire and Hugo le Fox 1297 (Cornwall). Other surnames exist which have the same or a very close meaning. The most frequent ones are Todd or Tod. Tod is a dialectal expression meaning 'fox' and is listed in the EDD (1905) for Scotland, Ireland and the northern counties of England. According to the OED (1989) tod is a northern word of unknown origin. Cottle (1978: 383) assumes as its origin an Old Norse noun, originally denoting a bush. Thus tod(d) is a metaphorical description and refers to the animal's bushy tail. Reaney and Wilson (1997) provide the following first bearers of the name: Hugo, Arding Tod 1168-75 (Norfolk), Richard Todd 1231 (Northumberland) and Richard le Todde 1275 (Worcestershire). Thus, Middle English tod(de) 'fox' was not solely northern. Furthermore, Re(y)nard can be regarded as a nickname for fox. Though the name originally derives from a personal name, it was often used in connection with the red predator, since Renard was the name of a fox hero in one of La Fontaine's best-known fables Le corbeau et le renard. Finally, the Scottish surname Wylie may be a synonym for a cunning person and for a fox. Although Black (1993) classes Wylie as a diminutive of William, other scholars give evidence that it could also refer to cunningness. Thus Cottle (1978: 423) suggests the derivation from wily meaning 'crafty', 'cunning', 'sly' of a person or animal, whereas Lower (1968, 2: 64) categorises the name as a paraphrased expression for fox.
Map 12 presents an overview of the distribution of Fox and the three synonymous surnames at the time of the 1881 Census. In order to provide an adequate impression of the single areas of distribution, a relative presentation has been chosen. Thus, these four maps represent a distribution which is proportional to the demographic figures. Furthermore, it must be noted that the last of the four maps (Reynard) has a different scale. Thus, the darkest colour in the maps of Fox, Todd and Wylie equals 201 to 300 relative entries, whereas the darkest colour on the map of Reynard equals "only" 11 to 16 entries. Though the maps provide a relative distribution, the absolute figures were added in brackets beneath each map.
With 27.825 entries, Fox was the most frequent surname of the four surnames in 1881. It occurred in most parts of Britain excluding the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, large parts of the Scottish Lowlands and the western parts of Wales. Next in number is Todd with 15.240 entries. Its distribution mirrors almost exactly the assumption voiced, for example, by Cottle (1978) that its origin is Old Norse. With 3.489 entries Wylie comes in third place. As a Scottish surname its distribution is naturally concentrated in Scotland with only a few of the Wylies moving across the border to northern England. Dumfriesshire showed the highest number of entries. Reynard comes last. Only 501 absolute entries were attested for this surname in the 1881 Census. Of these, 294 hits were noted in the West Riding of Yorkshire alone. The second cluster with a high frequency of Reynard was the Isle of Wight.
Fox has one variant, namely Foxe. This variant is not listed in Reaney and Wilson (1997) and could only be found twice in the--older--onomastic literature. According to Lower (1968: 79) the Irish surname Shanach has been anglicised to Foxe, whereas Ewen (1968: 54) assumes that Foxe developed from a Spanish surname, although from which one he does not say. These explanatory attempts, however, cannot be taken seriously. Foxe is simply a spelling variant. Apart from the better-known vox, attested in the general language for the 13th, 14th and the 16th century, showing the initial original voiceless fricative becoming voiced, where the original status was restored again later in Standard English in contrast to the female form vixen, the OED (1989) attests foxe in the general language between the 13th and the 17th century. Whereas according to Reaney and Wilson (1997) Vox has not been attested as a family name, Foxe does appear as a surname. It died out in the general language long ago, but survived in the surname, if only in small numbers, down to the present day. Foxe is thus another example of an English word fossilised in an English family name.
Map 13 shows the distributional development of Foxe from the 16th to the 19th century, while Map 14 shows that of Fox for the same period. The VRI provides nearly as many entries for both variants for the 16th century, namely 89 for Fox and 83 for Foxe. During the 17th century the frequency of Foxe-hits doubled to 174, while Fox-hits increased tenfold to 906. From the 18th century onwards, however, the numbers of Foxe-entries diminished strongly (18th century 7 entries, 19th century 4 entries, 1881 Census 9 entries), while those of Fox increased remarkably (18th century 2.948 entries, 19th century 6.198 entries, 1881 Census 27.825 entries). These developments lead to the conclusion that many people changed their names from Foxe to Fox.
Map 15 features the absolute distribution of Fox according to the UK-Info 2004 where 47.424 entries were counted--in contrast to 50 for Foxe. The impression one gets from this map is quite similar to that of the distribution of Fox in the preceding centuries in that there have always been high distributions of this name in the Midlands and in the Yorkshire regions. London now shows the highest density of Fox family names, but London is a special case. As it has acted as a magnet for migrants during all the centuries since surnames were formed, it is normal to find that some, probably many, people there possess a family name that is otherwise concentrated elsewhere. The distribution of the name in and around London can often be disregarded, unless of course all the other examples of the surname are from those parts. The constantly high figures in the northern Midlands suggest that the nickname Fox originated there, a view that corresponds with Guppy's findings (1968: 33).
4.4. Wait, Gait
The surname Wait is derived from the occupational name for a watchman. This person was a watchman either in a fortified place or a town. The town waits combined the functions of watchmen and musicians (cf. Reaney--Wilson 1997, s.v. "Wait" and OED 1989, s.v. "wait", sb.). Reaney and Wilson (1997) list quite a number of variants, namely Waite, Waites, Waits, Wates, Wayt, Wayte, Waytes, Waight, Waighte, Weight, Weait, Whait, Whaite, Whaites, Whaits and Whate (the forms with -s mean 'son of W.'). According to this dictionary, the first bearers of this name were Ailward Waite 1170-87 (London), Roger la Waite 1197 (Warwickshire), Ralph la Weite 12th century (Nottinghamshire), Roger le Wayte 1221 (Suffolk), John la Wayte 1243 (Somerset), Hugh le Weyt 1251 (Staffordshire), Roger le Wate 1296 (Sussex), Adam le Whaite 1349 (Gloucestershire) and Richard Waight, Weight 1595, 1610 (no region mentioned). Ultimately the name goes back to Old Northern French waite 'watchman'. As the list makes clear the supposition, often heard, that the absence of the article points to a hereditary surname cannot be upheld, for as early as in the 12th century the article is already frequently omitted.
Maps 16-20 show the distribution of the most frequently occurring variants Wait, Waite, Wayte, Waight and Weight from the 16th to the 19th century. None of them ever occurred in Wales. Very few entries of Wait (Map 16) were found in the VRI for the 16th century, all of them in Lincolnshire. This situation changes clearly a century later when three local concentrations can be found. One is located in the counties of Berwickshire, Midlothian and East Lothian in Scotland, one in Wiltshire in southern England and one in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. In the 18th century, the Waits spread more evenly over a larger area of England and Scotland. The same picture emerges in the 19th century where, however, a local concentration of Wait in Berwickshire, already noted earlier, becomes evident again. The distribution of Waite (Map 17) is strikingly similar to that of Wait in the 17th and 19th centuries. Altogether Waite occurs somewhat more often than Wait in the preceding centuries. Map 18 deals with Wayte. In the 17th as well as in the 19th century this surname was attested quite frequently in Wiltshire side by side with Wait and Waite. Unlike these two last-mentioned variants, Wayte never occurred in Scotland. The frequency of the surname remained stable in the 17th and the 19th century. There is an unexplainable drop of Wayte in the 18th century. Waight (Map 19) shows only a few entries in the 16th century, largely in the South of England. Although the frequency of the name increased in the 17th century, its regional distribution remained the same with Wiltshire and Hampshire in the focus. While the same picture emerges a century later, both the frequency and the distribution of Waight increase in the 19th century, but the peak is still in Wiltshire and Hampshire and then in addition also in the London area. Bearers of the surname Waight never travelled as far north as Scotland. This is in contrast to Weight (Map 20). The name occurred most often in Wiltshire in the 16th century, but in the succeeding centuries it also spread to southern Scotland, in the 17th and 18th centuries mainly to Ayrshire, East Lothian and Berwickshire. In the 19th century, the Weights were spread more evenly both in England and southern Scotland.
The five variants often co-existed side by side in the same areas. All originated in the South of England and in the Midlands, as the above list of first bearers already suggested. In the general language, the OED (1989), s.v. "wait", sb., also provides many different spellings, of which only wait survived, a spelling attested since the 14th century. Waite and wayte had existed between the 13th and the 17th century and waight and weight only in the 17th century. With the exception of Wait the other variants are thus further examples of English words fossilised in English family names.
Maps 21-22 feature the absolute distribution of Wait and Waite according to the UK-Info 2004. The highest density of the surnames Wait and Waite is to be found in West Yorkshire, next comes the London area. Both regions witnessed a remarkable population increase due to important industrial developments providing work for thousands of people (cf. the contributions in Darby 1976). Weight occurs much less often. As Map 23 reveals it is mainly attested in northern and south-eastern England. The present-day occurrences of both Waight and Wayte are so low that the maps have been omitted.
Gait is a doublet of Wait. It ultimately goes back to Old French gaite, guaite 'watchman'. According to Reaney and Wilson (1997) the first bearers of the name were Reginald Gayt 1139 (Oxfordshire), Robert le Gayt 1205 (Oxfordshire), William le Guaite 1208 (Staffordshire), Stephen, Thomas Gayt(e) 1297 and 1331 (Yorkshire), John Gaytt, Gate 1390 and 1416 (Yorkshire), Richard Gaites 1561 (Yorkshire). With this meaning Gait is neither attested in the OED (1989) nor in the MED (1954-1999). As was the case with Waite, the article is omitted already as early as in the 12th century.
Map 24 presents an overview of the development of Gait from the 16th to the 19th century. Its occurrence is extremely low, much lower than the rarest of the Wait forms. In the 19th century, Gait was attested a little more often in Wiltshire, where it, surprisingly, occurred side by side with Wait, Waite, Wayte, Waight and Weight. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, the largest concentration of Gait--still in rather low numbers--is in south-western England in the area around Bristol, as well as in southern Wales (Newport and Cardiff). This change certainly had economic reasons (on the development of Bristol see Hall 1976: 439).
5. Further research
In the publications mentioned in the abstract of this paper, a good many surnames of different types have been presented and analysed in the above fashion. The available sources permit just such a procedure. Additions, of course, would be desirable, such as, for example, a search of all relevant printed and manuscript indexes on pre-1538 sources of data (lay subsidy rolls, wills, etc.) available in national and county archives. This is what Porteous (1988) did to discover the place of origin of the Mell family in the Humberside region. Yet such a detailed perusal of original documents is beyond the possibilities when a large-scale atlas is envisaged, however desirable it would be to treat different persons with the same surname separately.
Additions will be made to what has already been published in Barker et al. (2007) as regards aspects of expression. Moreover, my "Remarks on the identification of cultural regions in England", Barker et al. (2007: 527-538), need supplementation for the areas not yet covered. This is equally true of surnames in relation to dialects where so far only a beginning with several single items has been made. Here the approach should, of course, be historical and due note should be taken of the fact that dialects at least in England have changed enormously from traditional dialects to modern dialects during the second half of the 20th century (on details cf. Viereck et al. 2002: 90-101). Research on surname and dialectal differences comparable to that done in France (cf. Scapoli et al. 2005) and in the Netherlands (cf. Manni et al. 2006) is still lacking for England as the table in Scapoli et al. (2005: 84) shows. (5) It lists eight countries in Europe where studies of sumames and dialect variation were conducted to which England will, hopefully, be added soon.
Map 3 Table of County Abbreviations (based on "Chapman Codes") Abbreviation County ASO Aberdeenshire ANS Angus ARL Argyllshire AVN Avon AYR Ayrshire BAN Banffshire BDE Bedfordshire HRK Berkshire DEW Berwickshire BKM Buckinghamshire CAI Caithness CAM Cambridgeshire CHS Cheshire CLK Clackmannanshire CLE Cleveland CLW Clwyd * CON Cornwall CUM Cumbria DBY Derbyshire DEV Devon DOR Dorset DES Dumfriesshire DNA Dumbarton OUR County Durham DFD Dyfed FLN East Lothian SXE East Sussex ESS Essex FIF Fife GLS Gloucestershire LND Greater London GTM Greater Manchester GNT Gwent GWY Gwynedd HAM Hampshire HWR Hereford and Worcester HUM Humberside INV Inverness-shire KEN Kent KCD Kincardineshire KRS Kinross-shire KKD Kircudbrightshire LKS Lanarkshire LAN Lancashire LEI Leicestershire LIN Lincolnshire MSY Merseyeside MGM Mid Glamorgan MLN Midlothian MOR Morayshire NAI Nairnshire NFK Norfolk NYK North Yorkshire NTH Northamptonshire NBL Northumberland NTT Nottinghamshire OKI Orkney OXF Oxfordshire PEE Peeblesshire PER Perthshire POW Powys RFW Renfrewshire ROC Ross-shire and Cromartyshire ROX Roxburghshire SAL Shropshire SHL Selkirkshire SHI Shetland Islands SOM Somerset SGM South Glamorgan SYK South Yorkshire STS Staffordshire STI Stirlingshire SFK Suffolk SRY Surrey SUT Sutherland TWR Tine and Wear WAR Warwickshire WGM West Glamorgan WMD West Midland SXW West Sussex WYK West Yorkshire WLN Westlothian WIG Wigtownshire WIL Wiltshire VRI sod Census maps only AGY Anglesey BRE Brecknockshire BUT Buteshire CAE Caernarfonshire CGN Cardiganshire CMN Carmarthenshire CUL Cumberland DEN Denbighshire ERY East Riding Yorkshire FLN Flintshire GLA Glamorgan HEF Herefordshire HUN Huntingdonshire IOM Isle of man IOW Isle of Wight MDX Middlesex MER Merioneth MGY Montgomeryshire MON Monmounthshire NRY North Riding Yorkshire PEM Pembrokeshire RAD Radnorshire RUT Rutland SSX Sussex WES Westmorland WOR Worcestershire WRY West Riding Yorkshire YOR York Conversion Table VRI and Census counties into UK-Info Disk counties Abbreviation County AGY Not included BRE+MGY+RAD POW BUT Not included CAE+MER GWY CGN+CMN+PEM DFD CUL+WES CUM DEN+FLN CLW ERY HUM (Part of) GLA MGM+SGM+WGM HEFWOR HWR HUN CAM (Part of) IOM Not included IOW Notincluded LAN LANtGTM+MSY MDX LND MON GNT NRY+YOR NYK RUT LEI (Part of) DIIR DUR+CLF+TWR SSX SXF+SXW WRY WYK+SYK * County Clwyd resembles the UK-Info data for Flintshire County. This seems to disregard the fact that the no longer existing county Clwyd consisted of Denbgshire and Wrexham as well as of Flintshire County. Yet. Denbigshire and Wrexham are searchable in a subfolder of Flintshire County and thus pan of the data received for Flintshire County, i.e. Clwyd
British census 1881. CD-ROM. 24 disks. Intellectual Reserve. 1998
British Isles vital records index. (2nd edition.) CD-ROM. 16 disks. Intellectual Reserve. 2002
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University of Bamberg, Germany
(1) For some of the problems encountered and of the research carried out earlier in English surnames cf. Viereck (2005) and Barker et al. (2007).
(2) The great interest of the Mormons in genealogy can be attributed to their belief that families stay together in the other world. Therefore, members of this church search for their ancestors to prepare themselves for a "sealing of their families" that can only take place once all ancestors have been discovered.
(3) On weaknesses and strengths of these databases cf. Barker et al. (2007: 61).
(4) Maps 1-3 show county divisions, their abbreviations and full forms. Grateful thanks are extended to Christina Behringer and Tobias Vetter for producing the maps.
(5) Both teams come to strikingly different conclusions. Scapoli et al. (2005) conclude that language similarity is an indicator of genetic kinship even at local levels, whereas Manni et al. (2006) noted that the only close match between the variation of surnames and dialects is found in Zeeland, a province which is also geographically separated from the surrounding areas.
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|Publication:||Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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