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2,397 study surnames with us
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About the study

I started researching my family history in 2007 for both my mother and father’s lines.  My mother’s maiden name was Raw and where I was born and brought up, Darlington in Co. Durham I couldn’t recall anyone else with this surname or indeed in the years after I moved away, coming across anyone with this name, so thought it must be uncommon.  I knew from my mother that grandad’s family were originally from Swaledale in North Yorkshire and I could recall day trips there when I was a child.

I was somewhat surprised when I found that my great grandfather Thomas Demain Raw had married Ann Raw.  My immediate thought was that they must be related, perhaps cousins.  I started tracing their ancestors but couldn’t find any link and at this point realised that Raw was quite a common surname in that area.  Undeterred, I decided that I would try to find a common ancestor for the Raw dynasty which of course proved impossible (at least to date!) or even finding one originating family.  However by now I was hooked on the idea at looking at the Raw surname and it’s origins.

After some initial attempts at family reconstructions, I took the Pharos course on One-Name Studies led by Helen Osbourne, in 2017 which introduced me to the Guild and ideas on methodology which helped me get started on a more systematic approach to the study. 

Name frequency

The number of census records for Raw indicated that it would be a "medium" size one-name study. 


Estimates are that in the fourteenth century there would be between 80 and 120 people with this surname.

Year 1851 1881 1350
England Pop 16,800,000 35,500,000 2,500,000
RAW 764 1158 bet 82 and 114


By 2017 the estimated number of people with this surname is around 1,600.

ONS Rank ONS Count 2002 ONS Est Liv Pop 2017 ONS Est Pop since  16th century
4,084 1,780 1,655 6,230


This is supported by the numbers found in the Census figures since 1841, which sees an increase from around 780 to 1,500 in 1939.

Year Ancestry FMP UK Census Online
1841 766 785 889
1851 764 877 869
1861 1007 937 1061
1871 1070 1009 1064
1881 1158 1082 1134
1891 1223 1179 1288
1901 1320 1306 1372
1911 1838 1484 1468
1939   1480  





Distribution of the name

Although, I am still very much in the initial stages of data collection, I have realised that although clearly Raw is very much a northern surname that it was more widespread than I initially believed.  It is found all through Swaledale, where my ancestors are from and to a lesser extend in the neighbouring Wensleydale. I have found links to show that the families moved from one dale to another so not entirely unlikely that they may be originally related.  There is another very large cluster of Raws around Whitby, most particularly Fryup, again in North Yorkshire and another in Pateley Bridge, which although geographically in West Yorkshire is just over the border from North Yorkshire. 

With the decline of the lead mining in the Yorkshire Dales much of the population moved away to seek work elsewhere.  Many of the Raws moved to Durham to work in the coalfields, whilst some emmigrated to America to work in all types of mining.

The Raw families of Whitby and its surrounding countryside were involved in farming and their descendants largely seemed to stay in the area and continue to farm the land.

Pateley Bridge Raw families were generations of stone masons and are found pursuing this trade in the 1911 Census.

As I now live in Manchester, I have always bemoaned the fact that all my family history is on the other side of the Pennines.  I was delighted therefore to find George Raw, a tailor, in Prestwich, which is an area of north Manchester a few miles from where I live.   George married a local girl in 1782 and had a large number of children.  He appears in the 1841 Census giving him a birthdate of 1766.  Unfortunately I cannot find a baptism record for him anywhere so don’t know where he originated from.