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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

I began researching my family history in 1982 and my maiden name Dorling as a one-name study soon after this. I wrote to all the Dorlings in the UK telephone dirctories in 1984 and had a good rate of response which gave me an overview of the Dorlings in the twentieth century.  Now we have the internet - please email me at to share your Dorling information and so i can share my information with you.
I am starting to re-use my old Dorling blog to keep people informed about the study's progress.  This can be seen here at the Dorling Family History
My research, done at that time in London and County archives showed the Dorlings came mainly from the East Anglia area (Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk). I found that in the Middle Ages the surname was spelt as Dalling and de Dalling, predominantly in Norfolk.  As the Dorlings became more prevalent in Suffolk in the 1500s and 1600s, the spelling changed to Dawling, Dauling, Dorley etc and, for most families, standardised into Dorling.  The one Suffolk family that retained the Dalling spelling was the family originating in South Elmham and Bungay, probably because they were literate.  They married into the Wyndham family of Felbrigge Hall and Earsham.  The origin of the Dallings of Westerham, Kent (previously from Buckland, Surrey in the 1500s) is as yet unknown.  Their coat of arms was used by the Dallings of Earsham, but despite viewing family records in the Norfok Record Office I have found no proven link between the Dallings of Westerham and the Dallings of Suffolk.  Unfortunately, no YDNA descendants are known of.  The Dallings of Westerham used the Coat of Arms that are associated with Simon Dalling, and his nephew (believed to be nephew) William Dalling died 1501, both of whom were Masters of Trinity College, College, Cambridge.
More Recent Dorlings: I have information on nearly all 19th century Dorlings, so if people can trace their Dorling ancestors back to around 1911 or 1939 I can usually provide information on their ancestry.  
Family Trees
I have placed most Dorlings into family trees, having identified the main branches whose origins are all in Suffolk.  Many of these trees are now available on the Family Search website under the banner of The Guild of One-Name Studies.   They are occasionally updated with new information. 
The trees on Family Search only contain basic genealogical information.  I have far more information and photos, so please contact me to see if I have information on your family.
The Dorling DNA Project began in 2006 as a YDNA project to find out if the main Dorling branches were related to each other.  The project is now with FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA), and now also accepts members with autosomal results e.g. Ancestry DNA tests, FTDNA Family Finder, 23andMe etc.   The YDNA study showed that two of the major branches, "Bury St Edmunds" and "West Stow",  share a common ancestor.  This ancestor has yet to be discovered.  We have recently upgraded the YDNA results to provide an estimate of when this common ancestor may have lived - results show a 62% chance the common ancestor was born around 1570, a 90% chance the common ancestor was born around 1450.
Dorling Branches 1800-1899: As at Dec 2017, Of all 764 known male Dorlings born between 1800 and 1900, 93% can be assigned to a branch, and another 7% of unknown branch to Suffolk.

Main Dorling Branches (males born 1800-1899) 

  • Bury St Edmunds 22%. DNA identified, matches West Stow
  • West Stow 16%.  DNA identified, matches Bury St Edmunds.
  • Bacton 15% DNA identified, rare in UK - J2 haplogroup
  • Herringswell / Barton mills 19% - DNA identified, rare in UK - I1b1a
  • Nacton 4.5%. DNA identified & closest matches are to people of Irish descent.
  • Branch unknown 7%
  • Bedfield 6% DNA not tested.  This line from a female Dorling.
  • Dennington 3% DNA identified in one male descendant (YDNA not transferred to FTDNA but I have the results and they are on YSearch 
  • Framsden 3 %. DNA yet not tested though a Framsden descendant has been sent a kit,
  • Waldingfield & Washbrook 2%
  • Hadleigh 1% no male descendants known of

Other Countries

Dorlings are known to have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, and South Africa.

Variant names

Originally the surname Dorling was spelt Dalling (to ryhme with 'falling') in East Anglia and Lincolnshire. The surname has been spelt variously over the centuries as Dawling, Dawlin, Dorlin, Dorlen, Dorlen, Dallen, and even Dorlding.   In South Suffolk there were also variants of Doyland, Doiland, Doiley, and Dorley, possibly due to the Dorley / D'Orley / Doily family of . 
I have a tree on Ancestry and Family Search for the Dorley / Doiley family of Hollesley and Alderton in South Suffolk whose ancestor was William Dorling, married 1750 Sudbourne.
I have researched the Dalling families of Bungay / Earsham, Suffolk and of Westerham, Kent.  Trees on Ancestry and Family Search.
I am also looking at the early Dalling families in Worcestershire  and Herefordshire.  The West Country Dallings are still to be investigated.

Name origin

The surname probably originates from the place names of Field Dalling and Wood Dalling (known as Dallinga in the Domesday Book) in Norfolk and possibly from Dallinghoo in Suffolk.  The de Dalling family of Wood Dalling is documented in the website "British History Online".
The earliest recorded instances of the Dalling name are in Norfolk as de Feldallyng, and de Dalling. By tudor times the surname is more common in Suffolk and the spelling gradually changes to Dalling to Dawling to Dorling. There is also some evidence of the 'Dalling' spelling in both Scotland and Devon and I would be interested to know how Dalling is pronounced in these places.
There is also a Dallen / Dalling variant from Ireland and variants from Europe and Russia. It is possible that the origin is a European clan called Dall / Dorl whose name gave rise to village names and then to surnames.

Historical occurrences of the name

The Dennington / Epsom branch of the Dorling family has some of the most well known Dorlings:-
Henry taprell Dorling (Taffrail) 1894-1968 Royal Navy & author of sea stories, books on medals etc.
Francis Holland Dorling 1877-1951 Colonel of the Manchester Regiment
                 Henry (clerk of Epsom race course whose step-daughter was Mrs Beeton of the
                  cook books:
Edward Earle Dorling (various roles, historian,
member of the College of Arms, & author of 'The Dorlings of Epsom').  
                                    Anthony Dorling who provided a YDNA sample and who appeared on a BBC
                                     video about his part in WW2.
The Dalling family of Bungay - John Dorling b. 1731 Bungay d.1798 Earsham Hall, Major Dalling (light infantry) was present at the Battle of Quebec in 1758,  Governor of Jamaica 1777-1782.
West Stow branch
George John Dorling 1918 -1987,  (pictured left with his brother William b. 1901 (sons of William and Selina nee Lee): 
played professional footballer as a full back for Tottenham Holtspur and 116 times for Gillingham,scoring 3 goals (stats from Wikipedia).  front row, 2nd from left. 
Bedfield branch:   
Rev William Dorling 1931-1912 of Buckhurst Hill, Congegational Minister and writer.
Peter Dorling -  Worked for BBC Television News  
where he spent 30 years as producer, reporter, interviewer,
news presenter, and film-director.   
Cruise ship lecturer for 25 years.
Professor Danny Dorling - regularly In the news talking about population studies, poverty etc.
Other branches
Phillip Dorling in Australia: regularly in the news as a political journalist.


Name frequency

In 1901 there were just over 700 Dorlings in the UK.
606 in the 1939 Register (although this doesnot represnt all UK Dorlings and includes some ladies who married into the Dorling fmaily).
There are currently approximately 1000 Dorlings in the UK. This makes it a fairly rare surname.

Distribution of the name

Most Dorlings are in the UK, but Dorlings have emigrated to other countries where their descendants now live,  such as Canada, USA, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
In 1881 535 Dorlings are recorded as living in England. 48% were living in Suffolk, 24% in London, 7% in Essex, 5% in Norfolk and 4% in Yorkshire.  14 other English counties had less than 10 Dorlings each in 1881.    


Some of the Data Collected:
  • All births, marriages and deaths recorded by civil registration from 1837 to 1930.
  • Births, marriages and deaths for some Dorlings from Australian records
  • Dorlings in UK census returns i.e. 1841, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91, 1901, 1911, currently processing information from 1939 register,  some for Canada & USA.
  • Many Dorlings in baptisms, marriages, burials from parish records, especially in East Anglia
  • Many wills
  • Other historical records such as directories, apprentice records, land & tax records, and letters.
  • Photos: I am trying to collect as many Dorling photos as possible, especially of 19th century and early 20th century Dorlings. I would be delighted if anyone can contribute photos of Dorlings or places they lived - please email a high quality image to me if possible- and let me know if you are happy for it to be shared on the internet or not. Photos are available to view on Facebook where there is an album for each branch.  i can send non facebook users a link to the album they are interested in.

As at 2018 we have photos of over 100 male Dorlings born over a hundred years ago, and plenty of female dorling photos too. 

The earliest Dorling photographed is West Stow branch James Dorling born 1808 Ingham, Suffolk who joined the Cold Stream guards, the first of 4 generations of his fmaily to do so:

Below is a list of some of the male Dorlings (Not updated for some time) I have photos of with their name, year of birth, abbreviation of branch, and place of birth.

albert 1875 BM wangford
benjamin 1897 ws wandsworth
cecil 1905 bed framlingham
charles 1892 12 09 B wandsworth
edward 1863 D st martin
edward 1855 unknown hampstead
edward 1845 B bacton
edward 1909 bedF framlingham
eric 1914 unknown cambridge
esau 1865 ws west stow
frederick 1872 bed ipswich
Fred 1880 BM
Frederick 1913 ws
freeman 1857.11.21 H barton mills
george 1902 B wandsworth
george 1900 B barnsley
george 1825 H barton mills
george 1853 B bacton
george 1918 ws edmonton
henry 1806 05 23 D bexhill
henry 1868 D croydon, addiscome s
henry 1834 D epsom
horace 1885 04 17 B bacton
jack 1926 05 13 B barnsley
James 1867 BM Wangford
james 1918 01 21 Fbse lewisham greenwich
James 1808 ws ingham NB: This is the earliest Dorling I have a photo of.
james 1884 04 09 ws dewsbury
james 1833 BM hockwood cum wilton
james 1851 ws st pancras
james 1825 ws west stow
James 1880 07.22 bseF farnham
james 1883 12 30 WS bse
john 1879 08 25 B walthamstow
john 1906.11.10 B walthamstow
john 1870 bse shoreditch hoxton
kenneth 1922 B? west ham
leonard 1905 ws edmonton
leslie 1897 bed holbrook
oliver 1865 ws culford
reginald 1892 BM
robert 1862 H chelmsford, springfi
robert 1882 B barnsley
robert 1873 H mile end
spencer 1891 WS culford
stanley 1896 10 04 B west ham
thomas 1832/3/6 L southwark? Bermondsey
walter 1872 B bacton
william 1831 04 07 bed Framlingham
william 1843 02 18 B bacton
william 1821 06 10c ws west stow
william 1876 05 23 ws rugby
william 1865 BM Wangford
william 1775 D Ipswich (cs51 Epsom) NB This is a painting, not a photo
william 1901 10 12 ws edmonton
william 1857.11.21 H barton mills


The main aim of the original DNA study was to see if any of the distinct Dorling branches shared a common ancestor.   By the 18th and 19th century there are several branches of Dorlings, each of which originates from a known male ancestor in Suffolk, UK.

The original Dorling DNA Project started with DNA Heritage in 2005 and used 43 markers. 9 participants representing 6 branches were YDNA tested, but more followed.   DNA Heritage ceased operating and the Dorling DNA Project transferred to FTDNA in 2011. All results, except the Epsom/Dennington branch, were transferred to FTDNA and all of these have now been upgraded to a higher level.

Two distant cousins, descendants from each branch, are needed to match to confirm the DNA signature of a branch and this has been done for all the branches tested except the Dennington / Epsom branch.  Two matching results from each branch confirmed the DNA signature of the branch enabling us to see if any of the Dorling branches were related to each other.

Results: the Y DNA of the following 5 Dorling branches has been identified with 2 distant descendants from each branch have matching results:-

Bury St Edmunds (BSE) Dorlings, 
West Stow Dorlings, 
Nacton/Easton Dorlings, 
Barton Mills/Herringswell Dorlings  
Bacton Dorlings.  

To date we have only 1 DNA sample from the Dennington/Epsom Dorlings and none from the small Framsden branch. 

2017/2018 Update: we now have a Framsden volunteer and hopefully his sample will reach FTDNA in 2018.
Dorling DNA Project at Family Tree DNA  - click here to visit the Dorling DNA Project Website
DNA testing has so far revealed that the 2 largest branches (Bury St Edmunds and West Stow) are related through a common ancestor who was probably born between 1450 and 1570. We have yet to discover who this common ancestor is!
The other main branches are not related to each other, e.g. Bacton, Herrngswell/Barton Mills, Nacton (includes Easton), Dennington (includes Epsom).
Bacton is a J2 DNA and Herirngswell / Barton Mills is a I1b1a DNA.  These two are a DNA group that is rare in Europe.
The Framsden branch has a volunteer and we hope to get his results in due course.