Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,744 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

104 total views, 1 views today




About the study

I was born in Dagenham, Essex and moved to Cornwall in 1965 at the age of 20. My father was Alfred Samuel Walter Varney and was born in Plumstead, near Woolwich. His maternal family were Webb’s and migrated to London from the South coast. I had no real interest in the family history when I moved to Cornwall or knew of any connection to the County other than my mother, who was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, saying that her grandfather worked as a ship’s carpenter between Looe and Wales (where her mother was born). I have since discovered that both of her maternal grandparents were born in Cornwall with previous generations of the Paltridge’s living in Okehampton, Devon and her grandmother’s Arthur family rooted in Cornwall around Perranaworthal. My interest was sparked by a cousin a little over 10 years ago. She had been researching the Varneys with her husband but had lost interest when he died. She kindly photocopied all of her research and sent it to me. This was all done when there were no on-line records and everything was hand written. Although I have extensively added to this, I have also checked all of her records, which are meticulous in their detail

The earliest accurate records I could establish was that my Varney family came from St Albans, Hertfordshire. In recent years, this has been extended back into Bedfordshire with the help of a distant cousin who was also researching the same ancestors. From Parish Record CD’s and visits to the Records office, we have taken this back to the start of the 1700’s but connections to earlier generation are tenuous.

Apart from finding a direct link to Cornwall, two of the most interesting results of the research came by co-incidence. Some early contact through Genes Reunited, linked me with a researcher in Australia. About 7 years ago, I was emailed by a first cousin, who also had the same email links with the same researcher  in Sydney. His mother (a sister to my father) had been killed in the war when a German plane crash landed on the roof of their house. There were conflicting stories that he was also killed but it turned out, his parents had separated and there had been no further contact with the Varney family. He is now in his 80’s and we meet regularly. The other was when I was checking on births at the Hertfordshire Records Office and noticed my Great Grandfather, Samuel Henry Varney, was noted as a soldier on two entries. I first found his service records then obtained copies of the muster rolls for the 10 years he was in the 49th Foot Artillery. This not only showed he was in Belfast and Dublin followed but 4 years in India but also explained why he was missing from the 1861 census, why a son was born in Manchester and why they moved from St Alban’s to Woolwich, where he was based and discharged.

When I registered the Varney name as a One-Name study I had not really appreciated the extent of the research needed, particularly in the US.  My current research is focused firstly around the two Counties that my own family came from but with the intention of gradually expanding this to surrounding Counties and beyond. I would welcome any assistance and if a researcher would like to pick up a County or area, whether this is in the UK or states / regions in countries such as Australia, United States or Canada, etc. Any expansion of the extent of the Study would also be welcome. I am also happy to relinquish the Study if someone is interested. (see later update below)  I will summarise my results so far before proceeding with exploring Wales, Scotland, Ireland and other countries when time permits.

Variant names

My aims, therefore, are to do a study based on the VARNEY name, including the variants that I have found so far of VERNEY, VARNY, VARNYE, VARNAY, VERNY. Other variants may be FARNEY, FERNEY & FURNEY possibly FEARNE or FARNE although these last two do not seem to be so obvious. Some variants may be due to transcriber’s error such as VANEY in the 1841 census for St Albans & are therefore Deviants

VERNEY(VERNY/FERNEY) may actually be viewed under the Guild’s guidelines as a Surname in it’s own right and if the origin of the Varney name is as described below, Verney may have actually been the PRIMARY surname and it has changed over the years and now become a MINORITY. This may come out in the Study and if my own overlaps with another Researcher, would welcome any collaboration on both names

Name origin

One description I have found for the VARNEY  surname (which I reproduce here but take no credit for or can remember where I found it, so cannot acknowledge the author or vouch for the authenticity)is that it was of French origin, and is locational from either Saint Paul-du-Vernay in Calvados; from Vernai, a parish in the Arrondissement of Bayeux; or from any of various other places in Northern France of the same name. All are apparently so called from the Gaulish element "ver(n)", meaning "alder", plus the locational suffix "-acum", a settlement. The surname is first recorded in the early half of the 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Lucya de Vernai, who was noted in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire, and Simon de Vernay, who appeared in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Northamptonshire. In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings including Vernay, Verney and Verny. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of Anthony Varney, on April 20th 1586, at St. Ann's, Blackfriars; and the marriage of Grevil Varney and Katherine Southwell at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on May 21st 1618. A famous namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was Sir Ralph Varney of Oxford, an early advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1, who was granted a Coat of Arms in 1566; it consists of five blue mullets on a silver engrailed fess, all on a blue shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Vernai, which was dated 1221, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Gloucestershire", during the reign of King Henry III, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272.

Distribution of the name

My analysis of these results for the English Counties seems to show that the incidents of the Varney surname were highest during the early part of the nineteenth century around Buckinghamshire (199)and Oxfordshire (134). Middlesex (including London) (74), Nottinghamshire (63), and Derbyshire (53) also had significant numbers. The incidents diminish dramatically further away with no, or very little, occurrences in the likes of Cornwall, Shropshire, Cumbria, Durham and Lincolnshire.

By the start of the twentieth century, there is still a strong Varney presence around Buckinghamshire (181) and Oxfordshire (116) but there is a massive expansion of numbers in Derbyshire (+216), Warwickshire (+188), Yorkshire (+188), Middlesex/London (+212), Essex (+123) and Surrey (+142)

In general, the Verney surname occurs in family groups close to the Varney households and continued to increase relatively in proportion to the Varney population numbers. Buckinghamshire did see the greatest reduction, down from 50 to 14, over the 98 year period whilst neighbouring Hertfordshire recorded none in 1851 and 18 in 1939. The surname appears to occur more in the West Country and in particular Devon, where there were 51 in 1851 and no Varneys with 44 in 1939 against 13 Varneys. In two instances in the 1939 registers, there were Varneys recorded in Verney households and was clearly written by the enumerator so was unlikely to be errors.


I am currently down loading births, marriages and deaths from Free BMD and pre 1837 (pre 1912 for marriage partners) and census returns from Find My Past for Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire from 1841-1939 plus my first ‘extension’ into Buckinghamshire. I have started to record the numbers in each County and beyond for births and marriages, which variant was dominant and how this has changed over the period when I can access Parish and Free BMD records from approx. 1500 to mid 1900’s, whilst setting up a data base of the records. I will ‘rank’ the Counties from these results based on Varney residency numbers in 1901 as a base line set against the County size from National Statistics as a percentage per 1000 population.

Updates at 22 November & 4 December 2017 – I have completed my research on the three Counties, as above and it is apparent from the amount of time it has taken to download census returns, analyse families to make the research numbers more accurate and to sift through names from 1600 to 1837 extracted from Find My Family indexes, where many were repeated several times due to multiple entries in Parish Records, transcriptions, etc, I cannot complete this exercise on the remaining 37 Counties. I also have a mound of paperwork I have printed off to enable me to do this. My criteria now is to accept the listed numbers indicated by the FMP search to compare any shift in the selected periods.  This will not be as accurate as the work I have completed so far. For instance, the FMP list showed a total of 173 Varneys in Buckinghamshire but by going through all of the census returns and adding the residents I found for Mentmore etc, which were included in the adjacent County of Bedfordshire, my own total was 185 & the Bedfordshire numbers correspondingly smaller. However, I do feel that using the FMP numbers will give a reasonable idea of where the spread of the Surname can be found.

From the more in-depth study of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, where I looked at birth, marriages and burials from 1600 and family census returns between 1841 and 1939, the variants of Farney, Ferney, Furney, Farn & Fearn occur more frequently before the census returns start and exist after in limited cases (see Fig.1 table). In the extended research of the remaining 37 English Counties, I have ignored these for now and concentrated only on the surnames of Varney and Verney during the census periods.

National statistics are available for a 200 year period from 1801 to 2001 showing the population numbers for each English County apart from three that I could not find (Cumberland, Huntingdon and Westmorland). This may be due to these being incorporated into Cumbria and Cambridgeshire. Using the population figures for 1851 and 1901, I have compiled two tables which ‘rank’ the Counties based on the number of Varneys registered on the census returns against the overall population size as a percentage per 1000 head. Additionally, I have shown the ‘ranking’ when simply using the registered number of Varneys. The 1851 table is Fig. 2 and 1901 table is Fig.3 (all tables are available in pdf form if requested by email prior to these being uploaded to a website later)

A third table (Fig. 4) is a comparison between numbers of Varneys and Verneys recorded in the 1841 census and 1939 registers to show any growth or shift in the surname incidents over this 98 year period. The results have been transferred onto two graphs, Fig. 5 for the Varney surname and Fig. 6 for Verney. Because the 1939 registers omit anyone that was still alive at the time when these became available to researchers and also list the families of single females that later married a Varney or Verney, I have viewed every family entry for each County and made an assumption of the likelihood of any ‘closed entry’ being a child of married Varney or Verney couples shown as a household on the registers. I have limited this to where there were no other alternative family occupants but cannot guarantee that some others may have been staying who were not related by surname. The single females who later married a Varney or Verney have been omitted.


I have had two DNA tests done, which have conflicting results:

Ancestry – 55% West European/20% Ireland/14% Great Britain/8% Scandinavian

                     Lower confidence regions – 2% Finland & NW Russia/1% Italy & Greece/1% Iberian Peninsular

MyHeritage – 82.8% Great Britain & Ireland/8.9% Italian/8.3% East European

I have received several DNA matches from MyHeritage, all 3-5th cousins from United States and one contact from Canada. I suspect that this may indicate that the MyHeritage DNA testing is greater in the USA and may skew the results more towards British & Irish heritage.

The Ancestry test also indicated a Southern Great Britain ‘community’ over the last few hundred years on a rough diagonal line between the Wash and Swansea. It will be interesting to see if my own research bears this out but I will not exclusively concentrate on the South. Both show some Irish descent, that has not shown on any of my own family tree but I would like to include this in the Study. I know that the Normans had a large presence in Ireland after landing in England and if the origins of the Varney name is correct on the article I have reproduced above, this may explain the Ancestry results but I doubt I will be able to prove that!


I have set up a website for my own family research which includes a section where I have published the results so far on this One-Name Study and will update as they progress. The original excel spreadsheets that I have tried to import above may be viewed / down loaded from: the intention is to separate the website so that I can upload the One-Name Study only into the Members Website Project.

I may be contacted via email on:

Dave Varney November 2017