Enthusiasts The first person to attempt a serious analysis of the geographical distribution of surnames was the naturalist, H B Guppy (1854-1926), who published his Homes of Family Names in Great Britain in 1890′. I have treated his contribution at more length on the English Local Surnames page. “Guppy’s pioneering work was not taken up until recent times. Instead the study of the origins of surnames became the preserve of linguists who were concerned with the meaning of a name rather than with identifying its geographical origins and subsequent ramification.” (Family names and family history by David Hey) That tide began to inch back with the appearance of Francis Leeson’s 1964 Genealogists’ Magazine article The Study of Single Surnames and their distribution. As far as I can ascertain, Leeson was the the first person to actually map the distribution of a name and its variants. He used methods now familar to produce a snapshot of the distribution of his name from the GRO indexes 1841-50, comparing these with the results from wills, parish registers and other records from the 16th century, and from a telephone directory analysis in 1961. The resulting distributions revealed that the various variants of Lee/Leeson have different foci. In many ways, this was a paper ten to fifteen years ahead of its time. It received the following critique by Reaney: “Your method is useful, but its value is limited by concentrating on the modern distribution. For me, and for the original distribution, LEE,LEA, LEY, LAY and LEIGH are one surname. They all go back ultimately to the O(ld) E(nglish) leah… the different modern spellings may be partly due to ME [Middle English] grammar, partly to the local dialect or simply to mere chance… Parish Registers did not begin until long after surnames became fixed; they are not necessarily proof of the original distribution.” I am including J D Porteous’ 1982 article on Surname Geography here as, although Professor Porteous is an academic geographer, his paper is obviously based on a personal enthusiam, and because it is of considerable relevance to the enthusiastic amateur. Professor Porteous took a family name, Mell, and applied the statistical methods of the geographer to a one-name study of that name. His article ought to be better-known and recognised. “Surname geography deserves less neglect by geographers. It provides an effective connection between studies in regional and local history, genealogy and geography… It encourages cooperation between layman and academic.” Alas, it failed to stimulate other geographers, and it was left to amateur historians to continue the theme. (I cover his techniques in the section on one-name analysis.) The next ten years saw a flurry of articles in Local Historian Brett, 1985, Use of telephone directories in surname studies Ecclestone, 1989, Diffusion of English surnames Titterton, 1990, Pinpointing the origin of a surname All this work was consolidated and more fully developed in Colin Rogers’ 1995 book The Surname Detective: investigating surname distribution in England, 1086-present day. This book is an excellent starting point for the enthusiast, but is already in need of revision, due to the rapid development in the digitisation of historical resources since it was published. (I hope to cover it more fully in the section on analysis, one day.) For those who require a shorter introduction, Andrew Todd’s Shadows of Ancestors: surnames and practical family history research, is a pithy discussion of many of the themes. 1996 saw the publication of John and Sheila Rowlands’ The Surnames of Wales: for family historians and others The Rowlands based their book on the findings of a survey of all marriages in Welsh parishes 1813-1837. (Please note that this was a statistical analysis; the collected data is of no use for individual genealogical research.) The Rowlands provide in-depth analysis of the distribution and incidence of hundreds of names associated with Wales. Also published in the same year (1996), another excellent book with a Welsh tinge, was Michael Williams’ Researching Local History: the Human Journey, which has chapters not only on the one-name approach, but on studying the cross-section of names in a discrete region through the Nineteenth Cenury Censuses. It is a very readable local approach to surname studies. In more recent years, two important aids have been published for the surname analyst: The 1881 GB census on CD Steve Archer’s Surname Atlas on CD There is only one amateur research group that I know of, that is researching this field – The Names Project Group in the Department of Adult and Continuing Education at the University of Sheffield, under the guidance of David Hey. (You can read more about this group in David Hey’s Family Names and Family History) There is scope for other local groups to pursue this type of research on a county basis. For example, Graham Thomas has published a web study of the Surnames of Gloucestershire. As the work of the above shows, there is still much that the amateur can contribute in this field. The most recent advances have been those of individuals working in isolation, and often unpublished. Such as the late Eric Banwell, Martin Ecclestone and Ken Tucker. However, David Hey, George Redmonds, and Dave Postles continue to write illuminatingly on the more academic aspects.