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Our 2,765 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

The Last One-Name Study commenced several years ago after attempts to trace my own family tree and finding that there were so many other people based in Suffolk with the same surname.

Variant names

The registered variant of the name is Laster.

Name origin

Name Meaning and History

English (East Anglia): Metonymic occupational name for a cobbler or perhaps a metonymic occupational name for a maker of cobblers'€™ lasts

Dutch: metonymic occupational name from Middle Dutch last 'load', 'burden', or a nickname for an awkward character, from Dutch last 'trouble', 'nuisance'.

French: habitional name from a place so named in Puy-de-Dome

German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): metonymic occuptional name for a porter, from Middle High German last; German Last or Yiddish last 'burden', 'load'.

Historical occurrences of the name

Some occurrences of the Last name in history include:

  1.  Nella Last (née Nellie Lord; 4 October 1889 -€“ 22 June 1968) was a housewife who lived in Barrow-in-Furness, England. She wrote a diary for the Mass-Observation Archive from 1939 until 1965 making it one of the most substantial diaries held by M-O. An edited version of the two million words or so she wrote during World War II was originally published in 1981 as 'Nella Last's War: A Mother's Diary, 1939-45' and republished as 'Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife 49'' in 2006. A second volume of her diaries, 'Nella Last's Peace: The Post-war Diaries of Housewife 49', was published in October 2008.
    The daughter of local railway clerk John Lord, Nella was married, on 17 May 1911, to William Last, a shopfitter, and had two sons, Arthur and Cliff. During the war she worked for the Women's Voluntary Service (W.V.S) and the Red Cross. The wartime diaries were dramatised by Victoria Wood for ITV in 2006 as Housewife, 49, which is how she headed her first entry at the age of 49.
    Her published writing describes what is was like for ordinary people to live through World War Two, reports on the bombing (including her own home) of Barrow in April 1941 and includes her reflections on a wide range of contemporary issues. Some critics, such as Edward Blisham, see a proto-feminism that anticipates the post-war women's movement in her account of her own marriage and her liberation from housewifery through her war work. Her son Clifford Last (1918-€“1991) emigrated to Australia following the war and went on to become a noted sculptor, with works displayed at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.
  2.  James Last (born Hans Last on 17 April 1929 in Bremen) is a German composer and big band leader.
    Last's father was an official at the public works department of the city of Bremen and he grew up in the suburb of Sebaldsbrück. He learned to play the piano from the age of 12, then switched to double bass as a teenager. His home city was heavily bombed in World War II and he ran messages to air defence command posts during raids. At 14 he was entered in the Bückeburg Military Music School of the German Wehrmacht.
    After the fall of the Nazis, he joined Hans-Gunther ֖sterreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946. In 1948, he became the leader of the Last-Becker Ensemble, which performed for seven years. During that time, he was voted as the best bassist in the country by a German jazz poll for three consecutive years, from 1950-€“1952. After the Last-Becker Ensemble disbanded, he became the in-house arranger for Polydor Records, as well as for a number of European radio stations. For the next decade, he helped arrange hits for artists like Helmut Zacharias, Freddy Quinn, Lolita, Alfred Hause and Caterina Valente.
  3.  William Isaac Last AMICE (1857 -€“ 7 August 1911) was a British mechanical engineer who became a museum curator and the second Director of the Science Museum in London.
    He was born in Dorchester and educated as a mechanical engineer. He was initially apprenticed with Messrs. Haywood, Tyler and Company. For the first part of his career, he was involved in civil engineering and mechanical engineering activities in England and South Africa. In 1890, he was appoint to the position of Keeper of the Machinery and Inventions division of the South Kensington Museum. He was promoted to Senior Keeper in 1900, when the scientific part of the museum had been split into the Science Museum, and then became Director of the museum in 1904 until his death in 1911.
    He was a Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
  4.  Joseph Thomas Last was born at Tuddenham in Suffolk in 1849 and ordained in 1872 at the Church Missionary College. In October 1874 he set out for East Africa and was established at the mission at Kisulutini. According to the records the 'connexion was closed' in 1876 and he returned to Britain, the reasons not being stated.
    In November 1877 he was re-engaged and appointed to the Usagara Mission at Mpwapwa. In 1880 he founded a new station at Mamboya in the Nguru mountains and from our point of view this was the most important act of his career. The Ngurus form one of the links in a chain of upland evergreen forests which are remnants of a once more continuous forest cover that allowed the migration of southern and western elements. The Kenya coastal forests and the Usambaras are the northern units in this chain. These forests are quite rich in molluscs and Last made interesting collections at Mamboya -€“ in fact some of his finds have never been re-collected.
    He obviously searched systematically for small species in the brief leisure time which would have been available to a busy missionary. At this period one of the mission letters home states 'Mr. Last has put up a shed for use as a church' and indicates that he was well received by the local chief who was pleased with Last'€™s efforts on behalf of his tribe. 'Recently he went to Zanzibar and took the Chief'€™s son and nephew, neither of whom had seen the sea before and went into raptures of delight. He was accompanied by several released slaves for whom he obtained letters of freedom from Kirk'. It is clear that he was one of those missionaries who was fortunate in having pleasanter natives to deal with and a physique to resist tropical diseases.
    After seven years continuous residence in East Africa he returned to Britain in December 1884. Later he was in the service of the Royal Geographical Society and Imperial British East Africa Company. He visited Portuguese East Africa in 1885 on behalf of the Royal Geographical Society and explored the Namuli Mountains and also travelled in Madagascar; he became a Fellow of the Society in 1895. He became Commissioner for Slavery for the Island of Zanzibar in 1897 under the administration of Sir Lloyd Mathews. It was Last who discovered the well-known limestone caves at Makunduchi in Zanzibar.
    In September 1880 he had married Annie Jackson who was the first European lady to reside in the Nyanza Mission and to penetrate with her husband into the Nguru country. A note in the Church Missionary Intelligencer says 'our friends will be interested to know that the lady who is to be Mrs. Last sailed last month with Mr. Taylor and Mr. Biddlecombe; she will be the first English woman to go into the interior'. Like so many pioneers she did not last long and died at Mamboya in March 1883. He must have married a second time because the short obituary in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society states 'he leaves a widow and six children of whom one J. S. Last is now a District Sub-Commissioner in the Zanzibar Government' -€“ thus carrying on his father'€™s association with that island. Last himself 'a man of robust and virile personality' with 'ability energy and an unrivalled knowledge of Swahili' died 50 years later at Shortlands in Kent in December 1933.
    He also collected many interesting plants, particularly in Zanzibar, and several are named after him. His namesake H. Last (no relation) tells me that H. W. Bates named a large carabid beetle Chlaenius lastii after him. There is in the Natural Science Museum at Bognor Regis a collection of marine shells labelled the Last Collection formerly in the possession of the late Dr. Joseph George Turner. Although the initials of this Last were not recorded it is known that the collection was made in the last years of the nineteenth century in Zanzibar so it is almost certain it was the work of J. T. Last. It contains a juvenile specimen of Conus cholmondelyi Melville. My thanks are due to Miss Kathleen Smythe for information about this collection.
    Last'€™s very important collection of snails from the Nguru Mountains was written up by E. A. Smith in his paper '€˜List of Land and Fresh-water shells collected by Dr. Emin Pasha in Central Africa with description of new species'€™. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (series 6) 6: 146-€“168 pl. 5, 6 (1980). Despite the title the paper deals mostly with Last'€™s material and describes over 30 new species from his collection including Hyalinia lasti (now in Thapsia), Buliminus lasti (now in Pseudoglessula) and Subulina lasti.
    By Bernard Verdcourt
    Extracted from The Conchologists' Newsletter, No. 74, pp. 248-€“249, published September 1980
  5.  John Murray Last - Public Health Educator and is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Ottawa.
    Born in Australia in 1926 he obtained his MB BS in 1949 and his MD (by thesis) in 1968, from the University of Adelaide. In the interim he undertook 5 years of hospital-based training, 5 years in general practice, and served as a ship's surgeon. In 1960 he obtained a DPH from the University of Sydney, and was then appointed Visiting Fellow, Medical Research Council Social Medicine Research Unit, London, England (1961-€“62).
    He has made major contributions to the advancement of methods for public health research and practice, and to clarifying related ethical issues. A prolific writer, he has held academic posts at the Universities of Sydney, Vermont, and Edinburgh, and has been professor of epidemiology and community medicine at the University of Ottawa since 1969.
    Perhaps his most enduring early contribution was a description of the "€œiceberg"€: a common phenomenon where only a relatively small proportion of cases of a given disease, "€œthe tip of the iceberg"€, comes to the attention of the health care system. The "€œsubmerged part"€ goes undiagnosed and unreported. The proportion of missed cases varies with the disease and its severity.
    He led the International Epidemiological Association initiative to develop guidelines on ethical conduct of epidemiological research, practice, and teaching (1987-€“93); he was a member of the Working Group of the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences that drafted International Guidelines for Ethical Review of Epidemiological Studies (1991).
    His greatest contribution is to the public health reference literature. He edited four editions of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (1980, 1986, 1991, 1998), eponymously known as 'Maxcy-Rosenau-Last' and is editor-emeritus of the 15th edition in 2008. As founding editor, he produced four editions of the Dictionary of Epidemiology (1983, 1988; 1995, 2001), this dictionary has been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Farsi (Iranian), Serbian, Slovakian, Russian and Ukrainian.
    He co-edited the Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine 3rd edition (2001) and An Encyclopedia of Public Health (2002). He was contributing editor on public health sciences and practice for Stedman's Medical Dictionary (1990, 1995, 2000, 2005) and the New Oxford American Dictionary (2001). He was scientific editor of the Canadian Journal of Public Health 1981-1991, editor of the Annals of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada 1990-1998, and interim editor of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 1988-89. Author of Public Health and Human Ecology (1987, 1996), he continues to contribute to the field: as editor of a Dictionary of Public Health (2006), and as coauthor of Global Public Health - Ecological Foundations (2013).
    His main scholarly interests today are the interactions of ecosystem health with human health: he has served in related advisory capacities, including as a reviewer (1998-€“99) for the Health Sector Working Group of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Name frequency

In the 1881 census there were 2,407 Last's recorded in that census.

Currently there are 3,809 people with the surname Last and it ranks number 2097 in the list of surnames of England and Wales

Distribution of the name

In the 1881 census the most populous counties are Suffolk (657), Essex (83) and Middlesex (81)

In the 1901 census the most populous counties are Suffolk (1,071), London (482) and Essex (395)


Data collection is very much a work in progress. Core sources looked at so far include:

BMD Indexes Census extractions for LAST surname1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911

Commonwealth War casualties for WW1 and WW2 and WW1 medal index cards

Participation in the Guild Marriage Challenge for Registration Districts including Sudbury, Westminster, Christchurch and Colchester


Volunteers wanted! If anyone is willing to contribute a cheek swab I will happily pay for a test for the first two LAST men (from different lines) who volunteer! It is a harmless genealogical DNA test, the test result is a string of numbers, and contains no personal information. Sorry ladies, but unfortunately a man is required for it to be the right sort of DNA and I have already submitted a test myself.

The Y DNA test tells you about your direct male line, which would be your father, his father, and so on back in time.

I am excited to announce that the LAST DNA Project has been established at Family Tree DNA, and it is ready for participants to join and order a test kit.

This is the project'€™s page - (you will probably need to copy and paste this link)

The goals of the project are to:

  • Discover information to help with our family history research
  • Discover which family trees are related
  • Discover information to help with brick walls
  • Confirm surname variants
  • Validate family history research
  • Get on file a DNA sample for trees at risk of extinction of the male line
  • Discover information about our distant origins

If you are interested in taking part I look forward to hearing from you.