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About the study

A world-wide study of all known references to ADSHEAD. Started in 1995: Registered with the Guild 3331 in 2000Oct including ADSHADE, ADSETT and ADSIT. In practice the study is a collaborative effort with important contributions from members of the ADSHEAD Yahoo Group.

Variant names

Earliest known (year 1350) references are to DE ADDSHEAD, DE ADSHEADDE etc. In the early records all sorts of random mispellings or typos occurred such as ADSHEADE, HADSHEAD, ADZEHEAD etc. We have a list of some 95 deviant spellings of this type. The most common typo in current times is ADSMEAD - addressed on envelopes, but never used by individuals. Currently the only forms in use today beside ADSHEAD appear to be ADSHADE (mostly in Canada and and South Africa) and possibly ADSHED (mostly in the USA) - though it is quite common for newspaper and other technical references to be made to ADSHED even though the individuals do not spell it this way themselves. I used to consider ADSET(T)(E)(S) to be a separate group of surnames and hence outside the scope, but there is some evidence to suggest some overlap and interchange of spellings especially in the county of Sussex.         A recent DNA result strongly suggests that ADSIT(T)(E)(S) is also related to ADSHEAD / ADSETT.   ADSIT has rarely been used in the UK, but there are a large number in the USA, nearly all descended from one John ADSIT thought to have been born in Sussex in 1680.

Name origin

There are several possible theories on the origin of the surname ADSHEAD. Earliest (year 1500) BMD references are all to be found in the Prestbury / Macclesfield area of Cheshire UK. Hamlets in this area include Adswood, Adlington, Adders Moss and an Adshead Green. Adshead Green is no longer on the modern maps, but at this site there is still a farm named Adshead Green and a listed building Adshead cottage. The year 1350 court references to DE ADSHEDDE suggests an origin from a place eg Adsheude or Adsheade, An Anglo Saxon word meaning 'settlement'. One possibility is from such a site in North Lancashire. There is a possible Celtic association with Adzehead (where an adze is an axe with its blade set at right angles to the shaft to assist cutting side branches off a tree trunk). One early poem describes Saint Patrick with a nickname 'Adzehead'. Apparently the Celtic monks in the 7th century shaved their heads across the front from ear to ear, thus resembling an axe. Celtic Monks were not celibate.

History of the name

There are very few 'notable' ADSHEADs prior to the 20th Century. One Thomas ADSHEAD of Milwich was appointed a commissioner for Staffordshire by Oliver Cromwell in 1653. Joseph ADSHEAD published Adshead's Atlas of the Township of Manchester in 1848. The National Dictionary of Bibliography contains only two ADSHEADs, father and daughter, also descended from the aforementioned Joseph. Stanley Davenport ADSHEAD was an architect and based in Liverpool and the University became a pioneer on Urban Renewal. His daughter Mary was a celebrated artist who completed several murals and won the competition in 1953 to design the high value postage stamps for Queen Elizabeth 2nd. There are 5x ADSHEAD Roads in the world - one in Vancouver Island CAN. There were a few ADSHEAD farms, but often these have now been converted into sets of residences with an adddress such as ADSHEAD Close or Crescent. There was an ADSHEAD House in Hazel Grove and there is an ADSHEAD Hall in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee USA. Recently an estate ADSHEAD Park was built on the banks of the Thames near Henley by a Sir John Robert Madejski a wealthy businessman and chairman of Reading FC who understands that his father was an ADSHEAD.

Name frequency

There were 725 ADSHEADs in the 1841 UK Census and 1300 ADSHEADs in the 1881 UK Census (rank order 2963) and thus about 13,000 persons with this surname since year 1500. Today (2013) there are about 3000 ADSHEADs in the World. Including the registered variants, the Index of recorded ADSHEADs contains approximately 9000 Births, 6850 Marriages and 6950 Deaths.

Distribution of the name

In the late 1500s one in fifty recorded deaths in Prestbury churchyard was an ADSHEAD. By 1881 ADSHEADs were still very localised but the registration district with the most ADSHEADs had moved 10 miles North to Stockport on the Lancashire / Cheshire border following the growth of the cotton industry. Even today the majority of ADSHEADs in the World live in Lancashire or Cheshire most with a Post Code starting SK. There are pockets of ADSHEAD families in Walsall and Sheffield and there are still counties in the UK (eg Devon) where there has never ever been a recorded ADSHEAD event. There are about 150 in the US: 200 in Canada: 50 in Australia and some in New Zealand and South Africa. There are a few ADSHEAD families in India all descended over 7 generations from a single soldier from the 22nd Dragoons who went there in 1815. A few ADSHEADs have begun to retire across Europe, notably to France and Spain.


Data on all registered Births, Marriages and Deaths is mostly complete, but there are still some missing Spouse Forenames and more non-UK records are to be added. The ADSHEAD group are steadily trying to identify the parents of most ADSHEADs and to identify each person's earliest known ADSHEAD ancestor. This data is held in the File Area of the ADSHEAD Yahoo Group E-mail Forum.    Several members of the Yahoo Group have mounted files on all sorts of subjects. Other data includes Census Data, Court Records, Patents, Authors, Sports, Wills, WarGraves, Family Group Trees, Photos,Cemeteries, Migration, Convict ships etc. A key role of the ADSHEAD Yahoo Group, is the collaborative creation of family group Trees, collecting together all ADSHEADs descended from a common ancestor.     Currently only about 25% of the Marriages and some 30% of the Births have been grouped into about 50 separate trees.


I have registered DNA studies with the three main variants ADSHEAD, ADSHADE, ADSETT and ADSIT, but so far (end 2015) we have only 37 marker Y-DNA test results from one indivdual from each of 12 different ADSHEAD trees.    These can be divided into 4 separate groups that clearly demonstrate that ADSHEAD is not a single origin surname.      Following the discovery that one large family in Sussex registered children with surnames that migrated from ADSHEAD to ADSETTS it would be very interesting to see to what extend these surnames are directly related. Also it may be possible to determine which branch of the ADSHEADs founded the large group of ADSHADEs to be found in Canada and to a lesser extent in South Africa.    A recent DNA result from a person with the surname ADSIT in the USA has proved most interesting as he has a complete match with the the largest DNA group of 5 ADSHEAD trees centred on Cheshire origins.     This might be a genetic co-incidence, but does spur us to try to confirm that he is descended from an ADSET or ADSIT in Sussex.
     If any person with any of these four  surnames (ADSHEAD, ADSHADE, ADSET* or ADSIT* ) would like to take part in some DNA measurements please contact me - Gordon Adshead. .