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About the study
I began my One Name Study in 2006. Like most others that embark on this adventure, I had come to a bit of a brickwall in researching my own Gammon ancestors. In this search I had built up quite a bit of data from various sources, and made quite a few contacts with other Gammon researchers.
As I was born in Australia, I knew of other apparently unconnected Gammon families there. I also knew that my Grandfather had emigrated to Australia from England sometime between the two World Wars. It turns out that my Gammon line can be traced back to Berrynarbor, in North Devon, England in the mid 18th century.
Through contact with other researchers, it is apparent that there is a significant Gammon presence in the South of England, in America and Canada as well.
So far I am in contact with 18 other researchers with ancestors from North Devon, 2 with ancestors from Kent, 2 with ancestors from Oxfordshire, and 4 other researchers with ancestors from Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Wales and Victoria (Australia).
I am a GAMMON, and I have always suspected that any GAMON people I came across were probably connected, but just couldn't spell! Seriously, I consider it very likely that the two names came about due to the fact that spellings have never been firm until quite recent times.
In fact, I have already been in contact with one researcher who can confirm a change in spelling from Gammon to GAMMIN in their own family history research.
There seems to be evidence that Gamon and GAMBON used to be interchangeable, so this variation has also been included.
In the research that I have carried out so far, I have also come across the names GAMMAN and GAMMONS which seem likely to be connected.
Several GAMMON researchers that I have made contact with state that there are rumours within their family of Huguenot ancestors, that came to the UK to escape persecution from the French. However, if the Surname dictionaries are to be believed, there are references to the Surname in England before the 16th Century.
According to Reaney & Wilson's 'Dictionary of English Surnames' 2005, GAMMON or GAMON is a diminutive of gamb, the Norman form of *jambe* or leg; 'little leg'. This comes from the French GAMBET, GAMBIN and GAMBON. The mb would be assimilated to mm, hence GAMMON. Another possibility put forward by Reaney and Wilson is that GAME, GAMES, GAMAN, GAMON, GAMMAN, GAMMANS, GAMMON, GAMMOND & GAMMONS is a nickname for one fond of, or good at games.
Hanks & Hodges 'A Dictionary of Surnames' also says that it is a variation of GAME, a nickname for a merry or sporty person, or a diminutive of GAMBE which is a nickname for a person with some peculiarity of gate (from the Anglo-Norman French gambon or ham).
Reaney & Wilson list the earliest found references to the surname as Roger & Margery Gambun. They are found in the 1209 Pipe Rolls for Wiltshire, and the 1222 Curia Regis Rolls for Oxfordshire. A Richard and a John Gambon can be found in the 1260 Assize Rolls for Cambridgeshire, and in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls for Cambridgeshire.
History of the name
A Robert Gamon possessed the manor of Datchworthbury in Hertfordshire in the reign of King James I. He also held other lands in the counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. His grandson, Richard Gamon, was born on the 14th of August in 1748, and was created a Baronet of Great Britain in May 1795.
Unfortunately it appears that despite two marriages, Sir Richard Gamon had no male issue and the Baronetcy probably passed to his cousin Richard Grace.
A coat of arms existed for this family which consisted of three human legs and a boar.
Whilst visiting the local museum in Ilfracombe, North Devon, I came across another famous Gammon. In 1797 whilst Britain was fighting the all conquering Napolean Bonaparte, the French Revolutionary Government planned an invasion of Britain by sea. The plan was to attack Britain's second largest city, Bristol, and then Wales and hopefully on to Chester or Liverpool.
They made it to Lundy Island off Ilfracombe, and sunk a few small craft whilst waiting for a suitable tide to take them to Bristol.
Not knowing the plans of the French, and without the normal complement of menfolk due to the war in Europe, a Betsy Gammon apparently made herself famous in Ilfracombe by marshalling the women of the town to deter the French from landing by parading the coastline looking like soldiers. The women wore red clothes and carried broomsticks and other household implements. This worked, and the French moved on to Wales where they landed and invaded at Fishguard.
According to the Surnames of England and Wales website http://www.taliesin-arlein.net/names/, which is based on Office of National Statistics (ONS) data for 2002, the following is the frequency of the surname GAMMON and it's variants:
- GAMMON was counted 2420 times and is ranked the 3120th most prevalent surname in England and Wales.
- GAMMONS was counted 305 times and is ranked the 16,197th most prevalent surname in England and Wales.
- GAMON was counted 198 times and is ranked the 21,427th most prevalent surname in England and Wales.
- GAMMAN was counted 127 times and is ranked the 28,511th most prevalent surname in England and Wales.
- GAMBON was counted 69 times and is ranked the 41,749th most prevalent surname in England and Wales.
- GAMMIN was counted 12 times and is ranked the 127,230th most prevalent surname in England and Wales.
According to the Surname Profiler website http://www.spatial-literacy.org/uclnames/, the frequency of the GAMMON surname has increased by 122 between 1881 and 1998, the GAMMONS surname has increased by 109, and the GAMON surname has decreased by 47. There are no details for the other variants as their frequency is not high enough for the website to produce any statistics.
Distribution of the name
The Surname Profiler website http://www.spatial-literacy.org/uclnames/ shows that in 1881 the GAMMON surname was most frequent in Devon and Kent, but also had a significant presence in Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Wales. In 1998 a general spread from those counties to adjacent ones can be seen. This website also shows that GAMMON is most prevalent in the Exeter area, and in particular in the town of South Molton. In Australia, the surname is most often found in the state of South Australia, and the area with the laregest concentration is Snowy, New South Wales. In New Zealand, it is found most often in the province of Auckland, and in America in the state of Maine.
The website shows that in 1881 the GAMMONS surname was most frequent in Northamptonshire. In 1998 the website shows a migration to adjacent counties and elsewhere (inluding further north). It also shows that GAMMONS is most prevalent in the Milton Keynes area, and most prevalent in the town of Bedford. In New Zealand, it is found most often in the province of Manawatu-Wanganui, and in America in the state of Tennessee.
For the GAMON surname, the website shows that in 1881 it was most frequent in Devon and Cheshire. There were also significant numbers in Wales, Hampshire, and Dorset. In 1998 the website shows a general migration towards the South East of England. It also shows that the surname is most prevalent in the Chester area in 1881, and Romford in 1998. Wirral is the town where GAMON is most frequent. In America, it is most common in the state of New Mexico.
For GAMMAN, the website shows the highest frequency in London and Surrey, with some in Herefordshire.
The other variants have too low a frequency for any concentrations to be identified.
My database currently includes the following sources:
- Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) Pioneer Index (Australia), 1788-1905
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills, The National Archives PROB11, 1384-1858
- Board of Trade Passenger Lists, Outwards, The National Archives BT27, 1890-1929
- England & Wales General Record Office (GRO), Civil Registration, Births 1837-2005
- England & Wales General Record Office (GRO), Civil Registration, Marriages 1837-2005
- England & Wales General Record Office (GRO), Civil Registration, Deaths 1837-2005
- England & Wales Censuses 1841-1911
- Some Dutch BDMs