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Our 2,765 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

Welcome to the Swalwell One-Name Study. The aim of this study is to help those researching their Swalwell family history and hopefully satisfy the curiosity of those who are simply interested in the origins and history of the Swalwell surname.

There are several strands of activity to the study:

  • Data: the study aims to collect all information on all those individuals bearing the Swalwell, Swallwell or Swallowell surname worldwide. The study has extracted a significant amount of data from a wide selection of data sets, primarily in the UK but also USA, Canada & Australia.
  • Analysis: to understand the distribution, history & origin of the Swalwell surname
  • Genealogy: re-construction of family trees and identification of the different branches of the name bearers. There are currently 14 discrete branches within the database of over 5000 individuals.
  • DNA: the Swalwell DNA study has been set up to help explore whether there is a single or multiple genetic source for bearers of the Swalwell, Swallwell and Swallowell surname. It is also hoped that the study of DNA, both Y-DNA and autosomal, can help consolidate the branches into a bigger tree. So if you fancy sharing an existing test, doing a test or simply want to know more than do get in touch.
  • Collaboration: the hope is that the study will become a focus and forum for all those researching the Swalwell surname where we can all share our research, information and knowledge.
Inevitably the study will always be work in progress and we will hold more information than appears here or within the website so please do contact us to find out if or how we might be able to help with your search for your ancestors.

Variant names

The Swalwell surname is one that appears in many different forms across the records. The following table summarises some of the variations we have encountered in the study:

S W A L[L] [O] W E L[L]
S W A L [E] W E[E] L[L]
S W A L[L] [O] W A L[L]
S W A L[L]   W I L[L]
S W A L[L]   W O[O] LL
S W A L[L]   M A L[L]
S W A L   M A L[L]
S W A L   IV E L[L]
S W A L   V E L[L]
S W A L     E L[L]
S W A N   W E L[L]
S W A[A] D   W E L[L]
S W A L D   E L[L]
S W E L[L]   W E L[L]
S W E L   W I L[L]
S W E L   W A L[L]
S W I L   W I L[L]
S W O[O] L[L]   W O[O] L[L]
S W O L   W E L
S M A L[L] [E] W E L[L]
S   UA L [E] W E L[L]
S   AO LL O W E L[L]

If you have others to add then please let us know.

The important thing is to distinguish between which of these forms are true variants, i.e. those forms that were used by the individual name bearers themselves, as against a deviant form, i.e. those that are the result of errors made by the scribes. At this stage the study has registered three forms of the name as variants i.e.:

  • Swalwell
  • Swallwell
  • Swallowell

Please let us know if you have evidence that any of the other forms should also be registered as a true variant.

Name origin

The Swalwell surname, or its variants, does not appear in many of the surname dictionaries. Where it is found, the Swalwell surname is defined as a locational surname and its origin is linked to Swalwell, near Gateshead in Durham. This is the only place in the modern gazetteers of England that is known as Swalwell.

There may be another source for the name though. The Historical Gazetteer of England's Place Names describes Swalwell as an alternative historical name for Swallowhill, a hamlet in the parish of Darton in the West Riding of Yorkshire. This place is normally linked to the Swale surname, however, and to date only two early references to Swalwell & it's potentials variants have been found in this area.


Historical occurrences of the name

The study has been recording early references to the name and this supports the hypothesis regarding its origins as a locational surname as there appears to be a clear link between the earliest references to the surname and the place of Swalwell itself.

Year Surname Form Source & Content
1243 de Swalwelle Durham Eyre Roll 27 Henry III: "Christiana mater Martini de Swalwelle"
1264 or 1278 of Swalwell Durham Cathedral Muniments Register I Inquisition: "William of Swalwell" - one of many describing historic grazing rights near Gateshead
1296 of Swalwell Lay Subsidy Roll: Benwell: Robert of Swalwell  

Newcastle: Robert of Swalwell

1307/8 lord of Swalewelles

Portland Welbeck (4th Deposit): Deeds and Estate Papers. Indenture, demise: "Juliana, widow of John, lord of Swalewelles ... a meadow called le Langedmedue in Swalewelles"

1311 of Swalwell

Durham Univeristy Library Special Collections Catalogue: "Elvet: William del Gyle sought satisfaction for a debt of £10 which Thomas of Swalwell ..."

1314 de Swalwell

Portland of Welback (4th Deposit): Deeds & Estate Papers: Deed Poll, receipt & quitclaim: "Thos de Swalwell son and heir of John de Swalwell"

1321 de Swalewell

Portland of Welback (4th Deposit): Deeds & Estate Papers: Deed Poll & quitclaim "Thos de Swalewell, as above,lord of Swalewelle"

1326 de Swalwelles

Portland of Welback (4th Deposit): Deeds & Estate Papers:Deed Poll & quitclaim: "Thos son of late John de Swalwelles ...all right in le Langmedow in Swalwelles"

1390 Swalwels

Deputy Keepers Records. Parliamentary Papers House of Commons & Command vol 33: "Custancia widow of William Swalwels: grant of custody of the lands etc late of William de Swalwels in Swalwels"

Name frequency

 Public Profiler identifies 217 individuals bearing the Swalwell name in the 1881 Census for England & Wales with an occurrence of 8.63  per million and rank order position of 11813. It also shows that by 1998 there were 329 name bearers and an occurence of 9 per million but a ranking position of 12099.
The issues of name variants, however, does mean that this type of source does not reflect a true perspective of the surname presence in a population. For example using the Surname Atlas then the figure of 217 name bearers in the 1881 Census increases to 259 if the following potential alternative spellings are included:
  • Swallwell
  • Swallwel
  • Swalwall
  • Swalwel
  • Swalwil

Distribution of the name

Greater detail, including maps, regarding the distribution of the Swalwell surname can be found on the study website.

In essence the surname emanates from the North East of England, with concentrations being strongest in County Durham followed by Yorkshire and Northumberland. There have, however, been various migrations at different points in time both across the UK and worldwide. As a result there are now established populations in:

  • USA         1.1 per million
  • Canada    2.75 per million   
  • Australia



A lot of data has been extracted from a wide selection of record sets so if you are searching for someone with the Swalwell name then please do contact us as we may be able to help.

All of the Swalwell Birth, Marriage and Death entries from the General Register Offices for England & Wales (since 1837) together with all Swalwell references from the England and Wales census from 1841 to 1911 plus the 1939 Register. All grants of probate since 1858 in England and Wales have also been recorded.

The one-name study also includes numerous entries from Parish Registers, from overseas (United States, Australia, Canada and South Africa) as well as pedigrees and data submitted by other Swalwell researchers.

It is my intention over the coming months to load the record extracts on to the data archive site here. The datasets currently available are as follows:

  • Civil Registration England & Wales: Births. 
  • Civil Registration England & Wales: Marriages
  • Civil Registration England & Wales: Deaths

The status of the record sets that have been extracted and loaded on to the website or added to the Guild Data Storage facility will be regularly updated. In the meantime do not hesitate to get in touch with us directly & we will share whatever data we have with you. 

We are constantly using the accumulated data to construct family groups & trees so if you have a Swalwell family tree to contribute that could help us with this process then please do send them to us. Full acknowledgement of your submission will be included on the website. The trees so far constructed can be searched on the study website.


Given the origins of the name are locational it is likely that not all those holding the Swalwell name are related and this is where we believe a DNA study could be particularly helpful in understanding how many different origins of the family name there may be.

The initial trigger to start the DNA project was a desire to get my 93 year old Father's Y-DNA analysed, as he was the last surviving male of my personal branch branch of the Swalwell line. The study is at very early stages and to date has too few participants to draw any conclusions. So we would welcome hearing from any male bearing the Swalwell name or one of its variants who would be willing to participate in this project.

Although the Y-DNA element of the project is the most significant in terms of the study of the Swalwell surname we have also undertaken autosomal tests as a means of cousin identification. Again we need to do more tests to give this project validity so again we hope some of you may be willing to participate in the project. If you are please do get in touch.

Personally, I am also investigating my mitochondrial DNA.