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3496

Ridgeon

 

About the study

The Ridgeon One-Name Study emerged as an offshoot to my research into my paternal ancestry. Having traced my line back to the mid-seventeenth century, I have so far been unable to go beyond Robert Redgin of Fornham St Martin (Suffolk). In my attempts to trace my Ridgeon forebears I found myself reconstructing other Ridgeon family trees, trying to match people to parents and children and ruling them in or out as contenders for my ancestral line. I then realised my research was about more than just finding 'my' past, it had grown to include the past of other Ridgeon surname bearers; it had become a One-Name Study.
 
I registered the Ridgeon One-Name Study with the Guild of One-Name Studies in June 2013.

Variant names

In choosing which variants to register, I considered the guidance offered by the Guild of One Name Studies in their Members' Handbook (September 2011 edition) and in Debbie Kennett'€™s book '€˜The Surnames Handbook'€™ (2012, The History Press Ltd).
 
I registered two variants, Redgen and Ridgen. The former spelling is a variant that was used in the UK in the eighteenth century but is found rarely in modern times (just 11 unique individual entries in the UK Electoral Registers 2002-2014, searched on Find My Past, 27th March 2016). However it survives more prevalently in Australia where the spelling has been preserved following the transportation/emigration of at least one, and probably more, Redgen surname bearers in the nineteenth and earlier centuries.
 
The variant Ridgen, although equally as rare in the UK today as Redgen (estimated 21 unique bearers of this spelling based on the UK Electoral Registers 2002-2014 referenced above), was the predominant spelling of the surname during the nineteenth century. Although uncommon today, I chose to include it as a variant based on it being, as stated in Kennett (2012, p.56), the '€˜spelling used by officials on a consistent and persistent basis over a period of years'.
 
The modern spelling Ridgeon only came into significant use from around the mid-nineteenth century, although the earliest instance found (so far) was in 1750 (Norton, Suffolk). It is however the most common spelling found in the UK in modern times. For example, of 329 births registered with the Ridgeon, Redgen or Ridgen surnames between 1956 and 2006, 318 (97%) had the spelling Ridgeon (search undertaken of birth registration indexes on Find My Past, 27th March 2016).
 
The development of the surname through my own ancestral line has been from Redgen to Ridgen to Ridgeon, although I have come across at least 21 different spellings of the surname during my research. I am investigating whether an earlier form of the surname was Rogyn, a surname found in documents with dates in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and in parishes in which my own Ridgeon line is known to have roots. A proven link has not yet been found but this is one of the hypotheses that I am working on.

Name origin

Discovering the origin of the Ridgeon surname is another aspect of my One-Name Study. My hypothesis is that the surname originated in Suffolk as it was very much localised in this county, more so in the West than in the East. However an origin within Cambridgeshire (or elsewhere) has not been ruled out.
 
I also hope to establish how the name came into existence. It is unclear at this time into what category this surname falls, whether locative, occupational, patronymic/matronymic, topographical, or whether it is a nickname. The assumption is often that it must be topographical, as in someone who lived on or near a ridge. However, the modern Ridgeon spelling/pronunciation has only been in existence in any numbers for less than 200 years; it would seem likely therefore that this is what Robert Ferguson in 1883 described as a '€˜corruption'€™ and '€˜which arise from the attempt to give to a name something of an apparent meaning in English' (quoted in Kennett, (2012, p55)).
 
The evolution of the spelling of the surname over the centuries€“ from Redgin/Redgen to Ridgen to Ridgeon suggests that the original spelling and pronunciation is likely to have been very different to the prevalent form that exists today. The case therefore remains open as to which category the surname falls into. If a link can be evidenced to the surname Rogyn (instances found in Suffolk in Rattlesden (1458), Bury St Edmunds (1464), Bardwell (1573) and Fornham St Martin (late sixteenth century)) a theory could be that this is a patronymic name, being derived from a man by the name of Roger, so perhaps being a corrupt version of, for example, Rogkyn/Rogkin. However this is conjecture at this time.

History of the name

The Ridgeons do not appear to have taken much of a notable place in history. They have come more into their own in the last century, with the hurdling athlete Jon Ridgeon the most famous bearer of the surname, along with the actress Angela Ridgeon.
 
Ridgeons, one of the UK'€™s largest independent Timber and Builders'€™ Merchants, based in Cambridge but with outlets across the East of England region, have been operating since 1911.
 
Deserving of a mention here is Isaac Ridgeon, born to a Hawstead (Suffolk) farm labourer in about 1826 who rose to become Usher of Hall to Queen Victoria in 1861. The Census for the Isle of Wight for that year shows Isaac living at Osborne Palace in East Cowes as a servant to Queen Victoria, whose own 'Rank, Profession or Occupation'€™ is given as '€˜The Sovereign'€™ (Source: 1861 Census, RG9; Piece: 653; Folio: 49; Pages: 1 and 3).

Name frequency

The 1881 Census indexes on Find My Past record 152 individuals with the Ridgeon/Ridgen/Redgen surname in England and Wales, giving a frequency of 1 in 170,884 or 0.000585% of the population at that time (population figures for England and Wales from GenDocs, Population of Great Britain and Ireland 1570-1931).
 
More than 100 years later, as of September 2002, there were 440 Ridgeons recorded in England and Wales (Source: Office for National Statistics, Surnames of England and Wales). This gives a frequency of 1 in 119,545 or 0.00084% of the population, and made it the 12553rd most common surname in England and Wales (population figures from Office for National Statistics, Revised mid-year population estimates) (all records accessed 27th March 2016).

Distribution of the name

The Ridgeon surname has traditionally had a high concentration in Suffolk, although the migration of the surname to other parts of the UK and abroad has been extensive.
 
In 1841, of 137 individuals called Ridgeon/Ridgen/Redgen, 97 (71%) were living in Suffolk. There is some variation depending on the surname spelling, with 90% of Ridgeons (44 of 49) living in Suffolk, 53% of Ridgens (27 of 51), and 70% of Redgens (26 of 37) (searched on Find My Past, 27th March 2016).
 
Some interesting patterns arise in 1881 (although the numbers are small and proportions are easily affected in such instances). Eighty of 121 Ridgeons recorded in the 1881 Census were resident in Suffolk (66%) compared to just 8 of 31 (26%) Ridgens, who were dispersed throughout England in counties including Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Essex, Surrey, Cheshire, Northamptonshire, and London. There were only 3 individuals recorded with the Redgen spelling in 1881, all of whom were living in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire (although the town is now in Suffolk) (searched on Find My Past, 27th March 2016).
 
By 1911, only 33% of Ridgeons (89 of 268) were living in Suffolk. Although almost two thirds (63%) of all Ridgens lived in Suffolk, the numbers are very small (5 of 8 people). No Redgens were recorded as living in Suffolk in 1911 (9 of 11 were living in Yorkshire, 1 in Lancashire, and 1 in Berkshire) (searched on Find My Past on 27th March 2016).
 
John Redgen (c1810-1862) of Old Newton, Suffolk was transported to New South Wales in 1833 for stealing sheep. Recent contact with descendents of this John evidences further surname evolution, with the surname surviving in this instance as Regent.
 
Ridgeons of Hawstead, Suffolk
 
I am currently focusing my research on the Ridgeons of Hawstead, Suffolk. This line originates with George Redgin (c1753-c1830) who moved to Hawstead from the parish of Norton, Suffolk around 1775. He married Martha Pitt on 26 July 1775 and went on to have nine children, seven boys and two girls.
 
I have reconstructed the tree of George and Martha’s son Benjamin (1794-1868) which sees all of his eight children leave Hawstead for London, with branches later moving to Windsor, Berkshire. This Ridgeon line dies out with Benjamin’s great-granddaughter Edith Florence Ridgeon, who died in the 1960s.
 
Conversely George and Martha’s youngest son’s line has been more prolific. I have found over 330 Ridgeon descendents of William Ridgeon (1797-1857) and his wife Elizabeth. William’s line survives today in Ridgeon families located in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Durham, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, and Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

Data

Birth, marriage and death registrations

I have transcribed all Ridgeon, Ridgen, and Redgen entries in the England and Wales civil registration indexes 1837-2005/6.

All birth, marriage and death entries for Ridgeon, Ridgen and Redgen (and also Redgeon) have been compiled into three spreadsheets, all of which are available to Guild Members via the Guild Archive.

If you are not a Guild Member but would like me to check for a particular entry, please get in touch via the contact details at the bottom of this page.

DNA

I have set up a Ridgeon Y-DNA Project on Family Tree DNA which I hope will go some way to answer my questions about the Ridgeon surname, particularly those about its geographic origin and its evolution. Initial Y-DNA test results indicate a predicted Haplogroup of R-M269 for the Ridgeon surname. This is the most common Haplogroup found in Western Europe.

Y-DNA testing has enabled me to establish that the Ridgeon surname is not connected to that of Rigdon, a surname predominately found in Kent.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Ridgeon Y-DNA Project or in taking part, please contact me.

Contact