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About the study
Mellanby is thought to derive from the place-name Melmerby. There are three Melmerby villages in the North of England, one in Cumbria and two in North Yorkshire and it is uncertain which ones may be the origin of the name. However there is a faint but credible trail that Mellanby may come from the Cumbrian village . This is based on old written records and modern day confirmation that the pronunciation of Melmerby is sounded as 'Melerby' in contrast to the Yorkshire Melmerbys which are pronounced as written. Then in the 16th century Melmerby and Mellerby variants appear in the same areas of County Durham and one individual is recorded as both Mellerbye and Mellenby.
In the 17th century a small family of Melmerbys lived in the Ripon area of North Yorkshire. This is the location of one of the Yorkshire Melmerby villages so it is possible, even likely, that they took their name from this village. At present it is not known the Durham and Yorkshire Melmerbys are related, if at all.
A previous researcher of Mellanby family history asserted that the Mellanbys around Teesside are descended from two Swedish brothers who migrated there at some time. No reason was given for this but it may be assumed that the construction of the word 'mellanby' has something to do with this since 'mellan' means 'between' in Swedish and 'by' is the familiar Scandinavian place indicator so 'Mellanby' plausibly sounds like a Swedish surname. However no records have been found to support this suggestion.
Much more on origins can be found in the Link quoted at the end of this Profile.
Historical occurrences of the name
The most distinguished bearer of the name was Sir Edward Mellanby, a scientist, whose most notable work was to show that the disease, rickets, was caused by a deficiiency of Vitamin D. Sir Edward advised the Goverrnent on nutrition during the Second World War and was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Sir Edward came from a family of scientists which includes his nephew Kenneth Mellanby, ecologist and scientific administrator. Among a number of publications, Kenneth's book on the effects of organochlorine pesticides on wildlife, 'Pesticides and Pollution', is probably the best known.
Fame by association can be claimed for William Mellanby who, in 1750, was mate of the brig Mary, sailing out of Whiby, when a certain James Cooke was a member of the crew. Cooke, a mere seaman at the time, later joined the Royal Navy and in due course became known as Captain Cook, the famous navigator.
Distribution of the name
Some personal data has been collected for around 250 Mellanbys who were born in the days before civil registration (1837 in England). In a few cases this is supplemented with information from wills, property records, maritime archives and local newspapers.
Some data is available post 1837 but much of this is related to personal ancestral searches so is somewhat limited.