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About the study
The aim of the study is to:
- discover the origin of the name: where it began and how
- explore the development of the surname from its first appearance in 1301 to the present day
- collect references to the name throughout the world including birth, marriage and death records; census records; burials; directories.
- draw up trees showing how the people bearing the name are connected
- connect people sharing the name or who have an interest in the name
- explore how the development of the name is similar to or different from that of other surnames
- explore the area where the name was first established
The surname Pickersgill originated in Yorkshire, the first known occurrence being Adam de Pickersgill mentioned in a 1301 lay subsidy roll for Helagh (Healey in the parish of Masham) in the wapentake of Hang, North Yorkshire.
From the late 1500s Pickersgills began appearing in parish and manorial records in North and West Yorkshire and by the 19th century the name was well established in the cloth district of West Yorkshire. A sizeable community also made its home in Lincolnshire. The name has now spread far and wide and Pickersgills are now found in Russia, USA, Australia and Jamaica. There are also a number of places called Pickersgill and Pickersgill Island in New Zealand and Pickersgill, a village in Guyana are furthest from its origins in Yorkshire.
Many of the surname directories give the meaning of the name as "robbers' ravine" or similar from Picker meaning thief and Gill meaning ravine. This is likely to have been a place established sometime in the mediaeval period and as surnames developed it was used to identify someone who was from that settlement. There was a hamlet called Pickersgill near Healey and Ilton which no longer survives except for a derelict house.
Distribution of the name
In the late 1500s Ripon (including hamlets around Ripon such as Aldfield and North Stainley) saw the highest number of births with high numbers also in Leeds with eight and four families baptising children respectively. However, it is difficult to draw any statistical conclusions from this as not all parish registers survive from this period.
By the first half of the 1600s the name began to appear in many other North and West Yorkshire parishes and in particular Masham and surrounding parishes. Interestingly it also appears in Barton upon Humber in Lincolnshire where Jeremie Pickersgill baptised his son John in 1623. Over the next decades the name spread within Lincolnshire to Bishop Norton, Winteringham and Owmby.
The Yorkshire Hearth Tax records for 1672 and 1673 show that the name was most numerous in Ripon and Ilton cum Pott each with four households and the name seems to be less well spread than would appear from the parish registers. At this time the name is spread northwest to southeast between Downholme and Ripon with other households around Leeds. By this time the name was also in London with one household headed by a Pickersgill in Blackheath and one in Brixton.
In 1841 74% of Pickersgills lived in Yorkshire, by 1881 this had decreased to 70% and to 68% by 1901 (source: censuses). At the current time only around 44% live in Yorkshire (source: current telephone directories) though a high percentage live in neighbouring counties such as Durham and Lancashire as well as in London.