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About the study
I am undertaking a one-name study of the surname Cavers (the 's' is an integral part of the surname I am researching). This surname originates in the Scottish border county of Roxburghshire (my home county) but I am researching the surname worldwide, with a particular emphasis on the period before 1900. The Cavers research grew out of my own family research and I discovered that most Cavers people living before 1900 were related to my Cavers ancestors. Following on from that I have built up extensive family trees for before 1900, both my relatives and other branches, as I try to figure out the gigantic Cavers jigsaw puzzle. My trees are particularly strong for Cavers people in Scotland, England, and Canada (especially Ontario), but if you have Cavers ancestry, especially if you can trace back to a named Cavers ancestor who was living before 1900, I will probably be able to fill you in on much of your Cavers ancestry and probably put you in touch with other cousins researching the same family. For more information about my other genealogical research see my website.
Very occasionally in historical records the Cavers surname appears in other forms such as Cavirs, Kavirs, Kavers, but this is extremely unusual and tends to occur before 1700. The LDS 1881 census transcripts include a number of mistranscriptions of Cavers as Covers. I have not so far encountered any Cavers people recorded as Caver, i.e. without the s at the end. The pronunciation is quite distinct (pronounced as in potholers!) so the 's' is unlikely to be missed out. Mis-spelling is particularly unlikely in the home area of the surname, the Scottish Borders, given that Cavers is a well-known place-name there.
The Cavers surname appears to originate from the parish of Cavers near Hawick. George F. Black in his *Surnames of Scotland* book (published in New York in 1946) gives the origin for the surname as 'From Cavers in the parish of Bowden, Roxburghshire'. However this does not fit with the findings of my research. There is a place name called Cavers Carre in Bowden parish but the early entries to the surname trace back consistently to the other Cavers, the parish near Hawick. Black may have been unaware of this more significant Cavers place-name. The word Cavers comes from Old English and means an enclosure. This means that there could be other places of the name in Scotland and even England, but the evidence that I've examined indicates strongly that the surname traces back in time to Cavers near Hawick.
I have still to study analyse the modern frequency of the surname but have started to look at a number of historical records to give a guide. The 1881 British census (covering England, Scotland and Wales) contains 146 Cavers references (some easier to find than others which were mistranscribed). Given that the British population then was approximately 30 million this means that 1 person in every 21,000 was a Cavers. The surname was more commonly found in its home county Roxburghshire: 45 Cavers people out of a county-wide population of 53,103, i.e. 1 person in every 1180 in 1881 Roxburghshire was a Cavers.
Distribution of the name
In 1881 Britain nearly a third of the Cavers people were living in Roxburghshire with significant numbers in surrounding Border counties. Clusters of Cavers people in 1881 Nottingham and Luton can be traced back to their Scottish origins. A cluster in 1881 London can also be traced back to a single ancestor William Cavers born circa 1790, possibly of Scottish descent. By this time significant numbers of Cavers people had emigrated to Canada, particularly Ontario, with emigration also to the United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand. A curious feature from my own Cavers family is that many emigrated but later returned to Scotland, even to the Hawick area where they were from originally. Instances of this have also been found in some other Cavers branches. More research is needed to discover if this was a general trend.
Over the last two decades a considerable quantity of Cavers references has been gathered, particularly for Scotland but also growing numbers for England, Ontario and elsewhere. References include index entries and certificate details from civil registration certificates, census return entries (including those readily indexed and numerous other ones from Roxburghshire in particular for 1841 and 1851), parish register entries, wills, directories and other records. More significantly the data gathered has been pieced together in the form of numerous family trees before 1900. Many other Cavers researchers have also contacted me about their ancestry so I can put cousins in touch with each other as a result.
There is now a FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA project associated with the Cavers one-name study. This is looking for male Cavers descendants (via all male lines of descent) to volunteer to have their Y-DNA tested to try to figure out how different Cavers branches are related to each other. For more information see the project page.