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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 East Anglia. 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 and, for most families, standardised into Dorling.  
I have information on most 19th century Dorlings so if people can trace their Dorling ancestors back to around 1900 I can usually provide information on their ancestry.
I have placed most dorlings into family trees, identifying the main branches whose origins are all in Suffolk.  Using a DNA project,  now run via FamilyTreeDNA, I discovered that two of the major branches share a common ancestor.  This ancestor has yet to be discovered.


Of all 733 male Dorlings born between 1800 and 1900, 63% can be assigned to one of the 9 main branches, and another 11% of unknown branch to Suffolk.

Main Dorling Branches
West Stow 14%.  DNA identified, matches Bury St Edmunds.
Bury St Edmunds 12%. DNA identified, matches West Stow
Bacton 11% DNA identified, rare in UK - J2
Herringswell / Barton mills 14% DNA identified, rare in UK - I1b1a
Nacton 4%. DNA identified in one male descendent only
Bedfield 4% DNA not tested.  This line from a female Dorling.
Dennington 3% DNA identified in one male descendant 
Framsden 2 %. DNA not tested
branch unknown but with Suffolk birth place 1o%

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.  I have researched the Dalling families of Bungay / Earsham, Suffolk and of Westerham, Kent.

Name origin

The surname probably originates from the place names of Field Dalling and Wood Dalling in Norfolk and possibly from Dallinghoo in Suffolk. 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 1860-1910 grouped into branches, all Suffolk, UK, (% rounded)
18% BSE
17% Bacton
15% West Stow
11% unknown but died in infancy
18% Herringswell (10%) / Barton Mills (8%)
7% unknown
5% bedfield
4% nacton
2% Dennington
1% Framsden
1% Eriswell
0% Hadleigh
0% Waldingfield
Statistics for Male Dorlings born 1810-1859 grouped into branches.
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

History 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.
Danny Doring, regularly In the news talking about population studies etc.
Philp 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 there are Dorlings in other countries such as USA, South Africa and Australia.


All births, marriages and deaths recorded by civil registration from 1837 to 1930. Most census returns i.e. 1851, 61, 71, 81, 91, 1901, 1911 for UK, som 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 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.