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Pharos One-Name Studies Courses


Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Limited was the first British organisation to provide online courses for genealogists. The Company is run by two professional genealogists, Helen Osborn in England and Sherry Irvine in Canada. Pharos exists to teach the best and most rewarding ways to search for your ancestors and to help others discover as much as possible about the lives of their ancestors.

The Guild selected Pharos as a course provider to develop online one-name study courses as part of its charitable aim of advancing the education of the public in one-name studies. Pharos was selected because of the experience of its instructors, the reasonable costs involved in developing and running the courses, and its location in the UK yet with a wide reach to elsewhere. These online courses can be delivered to members and to anyone interested in one-name studies anywhere in the world.

Introduction to One-Name Studies

This was the first course to be offered, and was first run in 2009. It is a five-week course, covering the history of one-name studies, reasons why genealogists should have a one-name study, how to check on the suitability of your surname, the history and distribution of surnames, the practical aspects of running a one-name study, and the collection and analysis of data from core records needed for a one-name study.

This introductory course has proved very popular and further offerings are scheduled according to demand. See the Pharos website for the next offering of the course.

How to book the course

You can find the course from the Pharos home page, selecting “Course Listings” and scrolling down until you find the course you want. Alternatively you can go directly to the Introduction to One-Name Studies course page.

From here you can either:

  • Click on the “Enquire about this course” button, stating that you are interested in enrolling on the course; or
  • Click on the Pharos “Buy Now” button, which will allow you to purchase a place on the course. Note that non-members of the Guild are granted Guild membership for at least a full year as part of their course fees as if they joined on the day they paid for the course.

If you make an enquiry about the course, Helen Osborn, the course tutor, will provide you with details of availability for the course, or details of any plans to run further courses.

If you have any difficulty, please email Helen Osborn on with your Name and Membership Number.

Advanced One-Name Course

The Guild and Pharos have also developed an advanced course in One-Name Studies. This course will give you the skills to venture into new territory. All one-namers with a substantial collection of data are potentially in a position to shed new light on old historical problems. A one-name study provides the “glue” that melds together disciplines as diverse as population studies, place-names, etymology, as well as genealogy and local history. Using an interdisciplinary approach, your research and analysis will shed new light on the past and contribute to historical knowledge.

The course assumes you are familiar with the material covered by Introduction to One-Name Studies course and that you have collected a large amount of data from core records in at least one country. The next levels in this course include collecting data world-wide, a review of current published work on surnames, venturing into more complex interdisciplinary analysis, and working toward the publication of findings.

Students will normally have a registered One-Name Study with the Guild of One-Name Studies and should be familiar with the Guild’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

The course offers two options, and one of these must be selected when registering and paying for the course:

  • Option One: lessons contain short answer exercises within the lessons (unassessed).
  • Option Two: as for Option One but with the addition of the preparation of a 2000-3000 word written article about your one-name study (assessed).

The best articles from Option Two may be selected for publication in the Journal of One-Name Studies. The Guild and Pharos will jointly be awarding a Certificate of Attainment for those successfully completing Option Two.

The course is taught by Helen Osborn with set reading of The Surname Detective by C D Rogers (1995). It lasts for six weeks, with five lessons and a research week:

  • The world-wide One-Name Study
  • Interdisciplinary studies – Beyond Vital Records
  • Surname case studies – Learning from others
  • Research and reading week
  • Synthesis – More than family history
  • Spread the word – Get published

To find out more and enquire about this course, you can find it from the Pharos home page, selecting “Course Listings” and scrolling down until you find the course you want. Alternatively you can go directly to the Advanced One-Name Studies course page.

Other Pharos courses

Pharos run a wide range of online training courses for genealogists, ranging from introductory courses to help you become a better genealogist, to more advanced courses covering either research in specific countries or selected topics such as “the poor” or “military records”. More information about Pharos and their courses can be found at their website at

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