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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.
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.
More Recent Dorlings: I have information on nearly all 19th century Dorlings, so if people can trace their Dorling ancestors back to around 1911 I can usually provide information on their ancestry.  
I have placed most Dorlings into family trees, having identified the main branches whose origins are all in Suffolk.  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 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 help determine when this common ancestor may have lived - results currently pending (Dec 2017).

Dorling Branches 1800-1899: As at Dec 2017, Of all 764 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)
West Stow 16%.  DNA identified, matches Bury St Edmunds.
Bury St Edmunds 22%. DNA identified, matches West Stow
Bacton 15% DNA identified, rare in UK - J2
Herringswell / Barton mills 19% DNA identified, rare in UK - I1b1a
Nacton 45%. DNA identified in one male descendent only
Branch unknown 7%

Bedfield 6% DNA not tested.  This line from a female Dorling.
Dennington 3% DNA identified in one male descendant 
Framsden 3 %. DNA not tested

Waldingfield & Washbroo 2%

Hadleigh 1% no male descendants known of

Other Countries

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

Variant names

Originally the surname Dorling was spelt Dalling (to ryhme with 'falling') in East Anglia. The surname has been spelt variously as Dawling, Dawlin, Dorlin, Dorlen, Dorlen, Dallen, and even Dorlding.   In South Suffolk there were also variants of Doyland, Doiland, Doiley, and Dorley.  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 variant from Ireland and there are instances of Dorling 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.
Statistics for Male Dorlings born 1851-1911 grouped into branches (% rounded) as at Dec 2017
20% Herringswell / Barton Mills   
20% Bacton  
20% BSE (Common ancestor with West Stow)
16% West Stow (Common Ancestor with BSE (Bury St Edmunds))
  5% Bedfield
  5% Nacton
  2.5% Framsden 
  2% Dennington
  1.5% Washbrook & Waldingfield
  0.5% Hadleigh
  0.5% Moulton
  5% unknown  

Statistics for Male Dorlings born 1810-1859 grouped into branches - this to be updated soon.

For 1810-1837 (pre-civil registration of births), only those known to survive infancy are included for those years. All males born from 1837 onwards are included.
21% unknown
18% Bse
14% West Stow
12% Herringswell (9%) / barton Mills (3%)
9% Bacton
6% Bedfield
5% Framsden
5% Nacton
4% unknown but died in infancy
2% Dennington
1% Eriswell
1% Hadleigh
1% Waldingfield

Historical occurrences of the name

The Dennington / Epsom branch of the Dorling family has some of the most well known Dorlings - Taffrail (RN & author of sea stories), Henry (clerk of Epsom race course whose step-daughter was Mrs Beeton of the cook books, Edward Earle Dorling (various roles & author of 'The Dorlings of Epsom').  Many of this branch were had military roles.
Other branches have contributed the Dorling part of the Dorling-Kindersley publishers.
Peter Dorling former newscaster, Danny Dorling (statistics & population etc) and many others who can be found by searching the internet.
Professor Danny Dorling, regularly In the news talking about population studies, poverty etc.
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. There are now 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.


All births, marriages and deaths recorded by civil registration from 1837 to 1930. Most census returns i.e. 1841, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91, 1901, 1911 for UK, some for Canada & USA.
Many Dorlings in parish records, especially in East Anglia. Many wills and other historical records such as directories, apprentice records, land & tax records, and letters.

I am also 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 put on the internet or not. Photos are available to view on Facebook where there is an album for each branch.

Below is a list of male Dorlings (Not updated for some time) I have photos of, it may not be all the photos I have but it's the ones I've managed to list! Key to branch = WS = West Stow, B = Bacton, H = Herringswell, BSE = Bury St Edmunds, N = Nacton, D = Dennington, bed = Bedfield, BM = Barton Mills, L = Lowestoft, Fbse = descended via a female of the BSE branch

First Name, Year of Birth, Branch origin, Town 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? Bermondse
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


One of the aims of the DNA study is to see if any of the distinct Dorling branches share 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.
DNA testing has so far revealed that the 2 largest branches (Bury St Edmunds and West Stow) are related through a common ancestor. Who this is, or when they lived, we have yet to discover!
So far 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 sequence that is rare in Europe.
The Framsden branch has yet to be tested.