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Our 2,745 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

The Winship One-Name Study began in 1997 when I found Winships in my family tree and had not come across the name before. It was the combination of not being to find the origins of ancestor Edward Winship who married at Caistor in Lincolnshire in 1709 and discovering the existence of the Guild which prompted the study. After registering with the Guild and beginning organised data collection, I was amazed to discover how many Winships were in the records. However, with around 700 entries in the 1881 census for England & Wales, it is in the lower region of a medium sized study.

Variant names

The registered variants of the name are: Winshop, Winchip, Winchep, Wincheep, Windship

Others have been found along the way: Whinship, Winchop, Winshep, Winshup

The 'i's are interchangeable with 'y', double 'p' is found and sometimes an 'e' on the end (these latter particularly in older records).

By the start of Civil Registration in 1837, most instances of the name are of Winship.

Name origin

There are currently two possibilities (with other, more speculative ones). The first is locative, from Wincheap Street in Canterbury, or possibly from a region just outside Canterbury on the Thanington Road, called Wincheap - here there was also a farm called Wincheap.

There are a number of early records to support the theory:

  • Richard de Wincheap was prior of Dover Priory in 1270
  • Johannis de Wincheap, a tailor, was a juror in Canterbury in 1320 Susan Wynchepe was the late prioress of the hospital of St James Priory in Kent in 1414
  • William Wynchepe was a petty canon and granator at Christchurch, Canterbury and was given a reward (payment) of 3 pounds in 1540 (this information came from a list of late monks with their offices, reward and pentions - victims of the dissolution perhaps?).

However, beyond these and some other early references, there are virtually no other occurences of the name in Kent at later dates. The name's geographical distribution does not indicate an origin in Kent and at the start of parish registers the name is well established in other parts of the country (see Distribution).

The second theory, again locative, was suggested by a language professor as being derived from Wins + hope (ie Win's hill). I have not located a likely candidate for this place yet, but the name of a hill could easily have been lost or changed over time. In support of this theory, the variants Winshope and Winshopp are more prevalent in the 16th and 17th century than later, particularly in the north-east of England where there are also many place names ending in 'hope'.

It is possible that there were two (or more) distinct points of origin for the name, but the Kent one did not survive beyond the medieval period.

Historical occurrences of the name

Perhaps not famous, but interesting are:

  • William Wynship of Dunnyngton, Northumberland, in 1508 fled to Durham cathedral to request immunity - he'd allowed Thomas Allenson to kill some stolen sheep in his house and became afraid of the consequences.
  • John Winship of St Pancras, accused, tried, found guilty of highway robbery in 1721. Given the death penalty.
  • William Winship rented Aydon Castle around 1657 (near Corbridge, Northumberland) - seven receipts still exist in Northumberland Record Office (for between 5 and 6 shillings).
  • The Times in 1859 reports of An American Samson - Dr George B Winship of Roxbury, a young physician, 25 years old and weighing 143 lb is believed... to be the strongest man alive. He can raise a barrel of flour from the floor to his shoulders.... (amongst a whole list of his abilities!)

Name frequency

From the index of the 1881 census produced by the Church of Latter Day Saints, there were 668 Winships recorded. This gives a frequency of 0.0000547% of the population, or 1 in 18,263.

According to an Office of National Statistics database of 2002, there were 1061 Winships (adjusted for deaths not included) recorded. This gives a frequency of 0.0000195% of the population, or 1 in 51,272.

Distribution of the name

Maps providing distribution numbers of the name Winship in the 1881 census show the most populous counties were Durham and Northumberland, followed by Yorkshire - the three together account for around 75% of the entries. The pattern is similar going back to 1841, where the same same three counties account for around 70% of the entries.

Further back in time, a similar distribution is noticed. Data from parish registers (actual/transcripts/indexes etc) have shown a high occurence of entries in Northumberland and Durham, followed by Yorkshire and a few smaller pockets in London, Hampshire and Cumbria. These other pockets of data are similar in location to the other 25-30% of entries in later census returns. It seems to indicate a fairly static distribution over the past 450 years

However, the one exception to this is the large number of entries in Lincolnshire parish registers, particularly in the earlier registers and mostly around Goxhill on the Humber estuary. It seems that by the start of Civil Registration in 1837, the name had almost died out in Lincolnshire and the early instances of the name in the County is therefore not reflected in later distribution patterns.

Perhaps some caution needs to be exercised here - there are fewer early parish registers in Northumberland (ie those that begin around 1538) than there are in Lincolnshire and this is likely to lead to under-representation of recorded instances of the name in Northumberland.


Winship entries from the General Register Office for England & Wales since 1837 (and currently up to 1918, though this is ongoing) have been recorded, together with census entries from 1801 to 1901. Also grants of probate from 1858 - 1935 in England & Wales and also pre-1858 for a number of counties have been recorded and many copies obtained.

There is also data gathered from many other sources, including a small but growing amount of information from overseas sources, the earliest known Winship to leave Britain being Edward Winship who left Northumberland in 1635 and settled in Massachussetts, leaving many descendents.

Some GRO birth, marriage and death registrations for England & Wales are already on the Guild web site and more data will soon be added.