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About the study
Vousdens have lived in and around Goudhurst since at least the sixteenth century. More Vousdens seem to trace their ancestry back to Goudhurst than to any other known place.
I registered the name with the Guild of One-Name Studies early in 2006.
Forsden and de Forsdenne may be even earlier spellings of the name: in a Lay Subsidy tax list (of 1344) and a Will (of 1474) respectively, both in the area of Biddenden.
Vowden which appears to be a name from the Devon area is not considered a variant.
Another idea is that they may have come to England from Flanders, perhaps as early as the late thirteenth century after King Henry III invited workers of woollen cloth to come and settle in England. Flemish weavers settled in the Weald area on the Kent-Sussex borders. Many villages, including Goudhurst, still have old weavers cottages that reflect this wave of immigration. It could be that the surname Vousden has evolved from an original Flemish or Dutch surname.
However, I am most inclined to the view that the name is derived from the local 'dens' that were clearings in the great forest of the Weald where hog-breeding flourished in medieval times, and the first part of the surname may have been the given name of an early swineherd.
Historical occurrences of the name
There have been quite a few Vousdens who have made significant achievements in their chosen field with their words and/or deeds, including:
- Lieutenant-Colonel William John Vousden (1845-1902), Commandant of the 5th Punjab Cavalry, awarded the Victoria Cross.
- Valentine Vousden, entertainer, real name Henry Vousden, was born in 1821, the son of Peter and Eliza (nï¿½e Moore) Vousden of Moor Street, Dublin. One obituary described him as a 'good, cheery, rollicking, intemperate Hibernian - the original 'Larry Doolan', a great wit and a humorous singer and composer.'
- Val Vousden, stage name of the Irish actor, poet and playwright William ('Bill') Francis Maher MacNevin (1886-1951).
- Mary Ann Vousden (1845-1920), a nurse who went to New Zealand to follow her profession and her calling.
- Ernest Vousden, a conductor and composer, in a career of more than forty years.
- Neil Vousden, economist, author of 'The Economics of Exhaustible Resources: A Theoretical Contribution' and 'The Economics of Trade Protection'.
- Dr. Karen H. Vousden, a leading expert in the field of cancer research, now at Glasgow University.
- Janet Vousden, psychology researcher into memory, language and speech at Warwick University.
- Wendy Vousden, Montreal-based writer and comedienne.
- Martin Vousden, author of 'The Illustrated Rules Of Golf' and 'With Friends Like These (Ryder Cup) : A Selective History Of The Ryder Cup'.
- Linda Vousden, author of 'Tonkinese Cats' (a cross between a Siamese and a Burmese).
According to a contemporary ONS database of surnames there are some 405 Vousdens in England, Wales and the Isle of Mann as of September 2002. This gives a frequency of 1 in 134,321 or 0.00074% of the population, making Vousden the 12,625th most common name in England and Wales.
Distribution of the name
- All references to Vousdens in 200 years of The Times (London) newspaper. They include court and military reports, news items, letters to the Editor, obituaries, advertisements, and so on. The index contains a name, date, type of article and brief description for each entry. I have started to put them online at The Times
- All Vousden grants of probate and letters of administration from 1859 to 1972 in England and Wales are online at: Wills
- All Commonwealth Vousdens who died in the First and Second World wars, both civilians and military personnel, are online at: War Deaths
- Vousdens on Monumental Inscriptions in the churchyard of Goudhurst Church online at: Monumental Inscriptions - Goudhurst Numerous entries from UK Parish Registers, Census returns and civil records of births, marriages and deaths as well as pedigrees submitted by many Vousden researchers. Please contact me for further information (see below for contact details).