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Our 2,743 members have registered
2,395 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

The study first became serious in the early 1960s although it had its beginnings a dozen or so years earlier when I saw some 16th and 17th century monuments to the Palgraves in a Norfolk church. I then found, in the public library, a book which had been compiled in 1878 about the families concerned. In 1962 I circularised bearers of the surname in the telephone directories enclosing SAEs but there were very few replies, so I began compiling Palgrave references from local historical and archaeological publications. In 1968 I met a distant cousin who invited me to join the Norfolk & Norwich Genealogical Society. I then started searching local archives in the Norfolk Record Office and the Civil Registration indexes in Somerset House. This was supplemented by visiting living Palgraves and recording their family details. In June 1973 we arranged a service at the now redundant Norfolk church, where I had first seen the monuments. This was supported by several Palgraves so we were able to plan a Palgrave gathering in October which led on to the establishment of the Palgrave Society.

Variant names

Pagrave and Palgrave were initially distinct family names but by the beginning of the 17th century most bearers of the Pagrave surname had adopted the "€œl"€ and became Palgraves. Vowel distortion in East Anglia has brought about Pelgrave and Polgrave. The "€œv"€ has been tranformed into "€œf"€ or "€œff"€ to generate Palgrayfe and Palgriff and emphasising the first syllable whilst the second is clipped, yields Palgrift. Early references include Paggrave and later Padgrave or Pedgrave. The latter readily transforms to Pedgrift which is currently the most common variant after Palgrave. The Palsgrave version was recorded in the early 16th century and persisted well into the 20th century.

Name origin

Palgrave has locative origins in the two villages of that name, one in Norfolk, near Swaffham, and the other on the Suffolk boundary just across the River Waveney from the town of Diss. Both were listed in the Domesday Book, the former as Pag(g)rava and the latter as Palegrava.

Historical occurrences of the name

Prominent bearers of the surname include John Palsgrave, 16th century Royal Tutor and author of L'éclaircissement de la langue française; Sir John Palgrave, Colonel in Oliver Cromwell'€™s Army; Sir Francis Palgrave, first deputy keeper of the Public Record Office and Francis Turner Palgrave, compiler of the Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language

Name frequency

The surname (including variants) is very rare there being only 211 instances in the 1881 Census of which just over one third were living in Norfolk and Suffolk and over a quarter in and around London. In the late 19th century several Pelgraves emigrated to Australia where there are now well over 100 descendants. The current global population of Palgraves and variants is estimated to be around 400.

Distribution of the name

Mainly Norfolk and Suffolk but with pockets in the London area, Birmingham and Tyneside


The Palgrave Society started publishing a quarterly Newsletter from 1974 -€“1982: this was then converted into an A5 Journal from 1983 onwards. Copies are sent to members all over the world and deposited in at least eight major libraries. Each volume containing 12 issues is indexed. It features articles, genealogies, tabulations, maps, illustrations, etc, all of which supplement the data published in 1978 in a 283-page book, THE HISTORY AND LINEAGE OF THE PALGRAVES, copies of which are still available.