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Our 2,745 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

I started the GANDER (& GANDAR) One-Name Study in 1982 when - like many other Guild members probably - I'd hit a 'brickwall' in researching my own GANDER line yet had accumulated so much data on 'other GANDERs' that my curiosity had been whetted. My line appeared in London and Surrey areas yet why were so many GANDERs to be found in Sussex?

Since then I've gathered more and more GANDER records and have always tried to help people with their GANDER queries with the hope that one day someone may have information that will help me with my line.

Variant names

There's a small but significant group using the GANDAR spelling. Perhaps by fluke of handwriting, 'GANDER' and 'GANDAR' has been interchangeable in some lines in past years but there are some lines in the London and Middlesex area - and rarely elsewhere in the United Kingdom - where there's been a consistent spelling of GANDAR. I know too that a line of GAUDERs in the Birmingham area were originally GANDERs.

Name origin

I've not found the 'definitive origin', and I'm of a mind that there are probably at least two.

One places the GANDER name as deriving from the old high German word gand which denotes a slope strewn with stones that could range in size from pebbles to large boulders. The suffix '-er' in a German geographic surname refers to a resident who is from, at or near the feature. This group predominates in the Alpine areas of Europe - Switzerland & Austria.

The other theory, for the English GANDERs, also suggests a Germanic origin. The areas invaded by the Saxons in the years following AD477 correlate with the 19th century Registration Districts for Births, Marriages & Deaths where the vast proportion of GANDERs were, and still are, to be found. These are Sussex, Middlesex, and Surrey. There are also sizeable groupings of GANDERs in Dorset (part of Wessex - 'the Kingdom of the West Saxons'). It seems likely that when surnames came into general use in England, one or more families took the GANDER name from a now disappeared geographical feature which has long disappeared. One flaw with this theory is the absence of GANDER from the other area occupied by the Saxons: Essex. One thing seems certain though, GANDER probably has nothing to do with the bird and so can't be an occupational surname. If it were I think the name would be evenly spread across Britain and it isn't.

Name frequency


Distribution of the name

When I started the Study I traced the distribution of the name in the United Kingdom through researching all the telephone directories, I already had a feel that GANDER was a 'Sussex name' but I was surprised to find that even in 1982 as many as a third of all British GANDERs were listed in just one telephone directory - that for the Brighton area. The rest were mainly spread though the south east of England but still mostly in the Sussex, Surrey and the Greater London areas.

Since then I've widened my horizons to record the migration of GANDERs to the Commonwealth. This has been mainly to Australia (a significant group in New South Wales derives from one Sussex couple), Canada and New Zealand.

The GANDER name in the USA - along with GANTER and GONDER - derives almost wholly from Swiss and Austrian origins. I've traced a few British GANDERs to America but they have not survived or are about to disappear. GANDERs in the USA have been recorded by Charles GANDER of Arlington, Virginia, in his 1987 book: 'The History and Genealogy of the GANDER Families'. I have this book but have not attempted to add to these records as I've mainly concentrated on GANDERs of British origin.


I've placed on my website at many records such as the Birth, Marriage and Death Registrations for England & Wales (currently I show 1837-1909 but I also have these for up to 2000). I also list many British Army Records for GANDER, plus Census Returns as I have them, Wills, entries in Trades Directories etc.

I've narrowed the GANDER family trees down broadly to some seven main branches; five in Sussex and two large London / Middlesex / Surrey ones. Sadly, I still have many 'twigs' left over which I hope to find a home for yet. I prefer not to show these family trees on my website but I'm open to enquiries and a mutal exchange of information.