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About the study
The objectives of this study are to research, record and share information on the origins, distribution, family histories, historical and geographic contexts of people with the surname Skyrme, Skyrm and variants world-wide. To achieve this a wide range of research resources is being used and will be shared through uploading datasets and trees to the Skyrme Family Website (see below)
The most common variants are Skyrme (mostly Pembrokeshire) and Skyrm (Herefordshire). Other earlier variants were Skyrmes and Skirm. Skirm remains as a surname in parts of the USA but no where else. Whereas genealogy links between Skyrme(s) families of Pembrokeshire and Skyrm of Herefordshire are almost certain, the study has yet to find evidence linking the Skirm name in the USA to its early origins in England, such as Lincolnshire in the 17th century.
Being a rare name it does not feature in most surname dictionaries. One source, however, lists the name Skirme as being derived from the medieval French eskirmer, a fencing master. Skrimshire, Skermer, Skirmer are given as alternative spellings. The origin of the name Scrimshaw is also similar. A more recent update to the Internet Surname Database says that it derives from the Middle English "skirme(n)" meaning "to fight", "to defend" and cites sources of its use since the late 13th Century.
These two suggestions are at:
Our own research has yet to confirm either of these explanations.
Family folklore always held that the name was Norse in origin and came to Wales with the Viking raids in the 9th or 10th century. They cite the name of an island off Pembrokeshire (Skomer) as evidence of this.
More investigation of medieval records, and ideally DNA research, is needed to add more certainty to any of these suggestions.
Watch this space ....
The name Skyrm(e) comes into the category of 'rare' based on there being an average of 18 births in the two year periods 1850-1 and 1950-1. This is using the Smallshaw scale which goes from very high frequency (over 1,250) through average (51-250) to very rare (<10). Rare is between 11-50. Whereas in 1850-1 the numbers for Skyrm and Skyrme were equal, there was only one Skyrm born in England in 1950-51 vs 18 Skyrme. In contrast, in the USA, the 1950-1 frequency of Skyrm is similar to that of Skyrme.
Using World Profiler:
- the variant Skyrme has a frequency of 15.2 per million in the UK, 6.7 in New Zealand, 1.38 in Canada and 0.52 in the USA
- the variant Skyrm has a frequency of 0.41 per million in the USA and 0.09 in the UK (mostly around Tenbury Wells and Worcestershire)
- the variant Skirm has a frequency of 0.14 per million in the USA. No connection has yet been found with the early Skirm name in England, though this is possible since there is a cluster with a frequency of 0.49 per million in Massachusetts (the fifth densest after the states of Washington, North Carolina, Arizona and Tennessee).
As an indication of absolute numbers the FreeBMD dataset for England and Wales which covers the perdiod 1837-1983 has:
- 1,650 births
- 1,032 marriages
- 973 deaths
Distribution of the name
Historically the name Skirm and Skyrm(e) were found mostly in Herefordshire, though a few early occurrences are found in London, Kent, Lincolnshire and Shrewsbury. One family from Herefordshire (then living in Ludlow, Shropshire) migrated to Pembrokeshire (Llawhaden) in the mid 1600s. So the main clusters during the 17th and 18th centuries are found at:
- Herefordshire - Lugwardine, Vowchurch, Hereford, Abbey Dore, Weobley
- Pembrokshire - Penally, Manorbier, Llangwm, Llawhaden
In the late 1800s there were migrations to the coal-mining valleys of Wales and also Bristol and Cardiff. From Cardiff three brothers emigrated to the USA, as separately did some Herefordshire farmers and some South Wales workers in coal mines and iron works. There were some early Skyrme criminals from Herefordshire who were transported to Australia followed later by voluntary immigrants. Skyrmes (or Skirm) in the USA started in New Jersey and Philadelphia but migrated west and south and are now found in many states. There are also sizeable numbers in Canada (British Columbia) and New Zealand.
Although now widely spread across the UK, the highest density of Skyrm(e)s remain in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, followed by Pembrokeshire, Lancashire and Glamorgan. As part of this one-name study more detailed distribution tables will be provided from analysis of the data. Because the name is often mis-transcribed by the main Ancestry and (possibly) profiler websites, the numbers given for frequency above may not be too accurate.
As of September 2016 the master database had over 1,700 individuals whose birth name was Skyrme or one of its variants. Sources of information include registration records, parish registers, censuses (UK, USA), electoral rolls, cemetery records, newspaper articles, military records, probate indexes etc. The master database is held in Family Historian which also shows family linkages and has links to various media. Approximately 2-3% of the individuals may be duplicates.
Since taking over this study in 2013 many more sources have come online. In addition I have visited the archives for Pembrokeshire (Havefordwest) and Herefordshire (Rotherwas) several times, photographing original records. As a result there are over 1,500 individual records yet to process, while almost daily new ones are discovered. During my trips I visited the towns and villages where Skyrmes lived and worked. Thus I have several hundred photos of the houses and cottages where Skyrmes lived, their local churches, and their graves and headstones.
A DNA project was started in September 2016. The aims of this are to try and overcome the limitations of documentary evidence to find how the distinct clusters of Skyrmes are connected. The project started with my own 37-marker yDNA test. Full details of the DNA project can be found at
The website for this study is at:
The library on the website includes the first three substantive publications of the study to date:
The Skyrmes of Pembrokeshire (1) - Manorbier and Penally
The Skyrmes of Pembrokeshire (2) - Llangwm and The Cleddau
The Skyrmes of Herefordshire.
In addition there are sections on places, origins, trees, documents, sources and the study workplan. As result of enquiries through the Guild, some interesting stories and lines of Skyrme have been researched, which are summarised on regular news updates at the website.