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2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

As with many one-name studies, this grew out of my personal family history research. After many years of hoping someone would undertake a one-name study, it seemed it was up to me! We are a very small family originating in Devonshire.

Variant names

I am researching four variants; Fogwill, Fogwell, Vogwill and Vogwell. Numerous spelling deviations (Foguille, Foggwell, Fagwill, Vogwall, Voggwell) appear in vital records and census documents but they do not appear to be true variants. The surnames Fogwill, Fogwell, Vogwill and Vogwell have endured from the late 1500s to the present. Earliest instances of the surname were recorded as Foghille in the 1300s.

Name origin

Cecil Spiegelhalter in his A dictionary of Devon surnames (Typescript, 1958, held at North Devon Library & Record Office,Barnstaple) records Fogwill as a surname from the place-name Vogwell near Manaton.  In The Place-names of Devon (J.E.B. Gover, Allen Mawer & Frank Merry Stenton, Cambridge University Press, 1931 &1932, 2 vols.) Vogwell is recorded in early records as Foghille and the authors give its meaning as " hill with fog-pasture"€. Fog is an Old English word for coarse reeds (from Focga).  In Devon the interchange of the initial "€œF"€ and "€œV"€ sound was widespread.
The Family Names of the United Kingdon (FaNUK) project gives the following for Fogwill and Fogwell:  Locative name: from Vogwell in Manaton (Devon), recorded as Foghille, 1333 in Subsidy Rolls. Early Bearers: Abraham de Foghille, 1332 in Subsidy Rolls (Kenton, Devon); John Foghille, 1332 in Subsidy Rolls (Ottery Saint Mary, Devon); Oliver Vogwill, 1605 in Parish Registers (Chagford, Devon); Johannis Fogwill, 1612 in IGI (Ashburton, Devon); John Fogwell, 1691, Rebeckah Fogwill, 1716 in IGI (Berry Pomeroy, Devon). References: Place-Names of Devon, p. 483.

Name frequency

In the 1881 census of England there were 226 people with the four variant surnames; 70 Fogwill, 96 Fogwell, 37 Vogwill and 23 Vogwell, comprised of 16 families and 12 single individuals. In the 1841 census there were 202 Fogwills (or variants), while in the 1911 census there were 294 individuals. The 1901 census was the high water mark; there were 341 Fogwills, Fogwells, Vogwills or Vogwells.

Distribution of the name

In the 1841 census 77% of the Fogwills & variants were in Devon. By 1881 there was considerable dispersion across 11 counties but more than 55% were in Devon with a significant population in Hampshire and Northumberland. Not surprisingly dispersion was more extensive by 1911 but 45% of the Fogwill population remained in Devon. Currently, there are significant populations of Fogwills/Fogwells/Vogwells/Vogwills in Canada (over 150), the USA (about 150), Argentina (over 50) as well as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.


All of the Fogwill entries in the England/Wales censuses (1841 -€“ 1911) have been recorded. I have a small but growing collection of wills, grants of probate, military records and divorces. I have a growing collection of vital statistics from civil and parish registration.  I have a 1960s document on the history and origins of the Fogwill family written by a dedicated researcher Mr. Richard Cyril Fogwill (deceased). I have a number of family histories/pedigrees sent to me by various Fogwill researchers. I welcome contributions of data and information from anyone researching the Fogwill/Fogwell/Vogwell/Vogwill surname.


In recent years DNA testing has become a more widely used tool in genealogy research. Surname DNA projects can help family historians validate their documentary evidence, fill in gaps in their research, break through brick walls and discover how major branches of the family tree connect. DNA research can be particularly useful with a small surname family such as the Fogwells/Fogwills/Vogwells/Vogwills.

In the summer of 2015 a Fogwell/Fogwill/Vogwell/Vogwill surname project was established through Family Tree DNA in collaboration with the Fogwill and variants One Name Study. The project is a Y-DNA (paternal line) and mtDNA (maternal line) project for people who bear one of the Fogwill surname variants and have some documentary evidence of their Fogwell/Fogwill/Vogwell/Vogwill ancestry.

For information about the Fogwell/Fogwill DNA project please visit the webpage

The Administrator of the Fogwell/Fogwill/Vogwell/Vogwill DNA Project is Bruce Fogwell, email: Lynn Fogwill, the Administrator of the One Name Study, is the Co-administrator of the DNA project. 

The Fogwell/Fogwill DNA project is also collaborating with the Devon DNA Project - a geographic-based DNA project.  People who have documented their Fogwell/Fogwill/Vogwell/Vogwill ancestors back to Devon, England may well be interested in this project as well.  See