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Our 2,744 members have registered
2,396 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

This is the smallest of my one name studies. My maternal great grandmother was a Winnister. The name only goes back to her greatgrand father. He was a retired boatswain said to be born in Bristol on the 1861 census. This would have been as far as I could go at the time. But a fourth cousin had also done some work in Portsmouth, were the elder children had been born. He had found the marriage and baptisms of the children. On one of the baptisms JFW was on board a ship. With this information I took a trip to Kew, while there I found his name in the Naval Medal book with name of another ship. From this I traced his career back to 1807, and he was not born in Bristol.

In a thesis I wrote in 1994 I stated it had taken me 14 years to trace this family, but is still ongoing.

Variant names

Some of the names I have found entries under, Wannister, Wennister. Winnaster, Winnester, Winnster.

There are some I have never found. Entries on census, with no birth reg. Also no deaths or marriages for some of the family.

Name origin

The name for this family starts on a muster book in the Royal Navy. More later...

Historical occurrences of the name

John Frederick Winnister (c1785-1866) Pressed into the Royal Navy in 1807 at sea in West Indies. Was shipwrecked of Sable Island, on 28 Sept. 1812. Picked up by captain and crew of HMS Shannon. Was kept on as crew and sailed down coast of Canada and America to Boston. This is in 1812 during the 1812-14 war with America. In a 15 min engagement the Shannon under Captain Philip Broke took the US Chesapeake, this was the only sea engagement won by the Royal Navy in this war.

This was not his only shipwreck, there was another at the mouths of the Ganges in India on 6 July 1820

Distribution of the name

This name for the early 19c is in Hampshire. The later half and into 20c is in London and spread to Kent and Surrey.


I have Births, Deaths and Marriage details from Parish registers and GRO index plus census details.