Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Foldes, Folds, Fould, Fouldes, Fowlds
Category: 2 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way, but currently in some countries only.
Contact: Anne Leonard
A little bit about me: I originally studied Geography and Anthropology at university and spent most of my working life in Human Resources in the NHS. I hold the Diploma of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies. My special interests are in migration and social history, as well as the history of the landscape and gardens. Foulds was my maiden name, and at the present time, I have traced my paternal lineage back to the start of the 1600's in Derbyshire. My One Name study ranks as a medium sized study, and is global in nature. with Foulds families migrating to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in particular.
Redmonds argues strongly that each hereditary surname is unique and one can only find the real meaning of a surname when you delve more closely into the circumstances surrounding each origin and evolution. Some surnames could change fundamentally in the course of two or three generations, become identical with other surnames, or become confused with place names or personal names with which they had no real connection (G. Redmonds, Surnames and Genealogy, A New Approach, 2002). This is particular true with the Foulds surname where it derives from Scotland, as it might originally occur as Fauls or Faulis, change to Faulds and then become Foulds (in some cases) over a further period of time. It then appears identical to the English surname Foulds, which has a completely different origin.
The second theory is that the surname is toponymic and derives from a place called Folds, possibly a village in Sharples township, Bolton parish, Lancashire (C.W.E. Bardsley, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Names with special American instances).
My research to date shows that the English Foulds/Fold(y)s derives from the Pennine district, on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, and is particularly concentrated on the area around Burnley and Colne. I believe that the topographical theory of origin is far more likely to be the case. The Scottish use of Foulds, which developed in some cases from a spelling like Faulis, is very likely to be a toponymic name from the west coast of Scotland, and therefore unrelated to the origin of the English surname. Changes in spelling can often occur when families migrate overseas in the 19th century. Fowlds seems to have largely developed as a spelling of choice amongst English Foulds families, and there is evidence, for example, of one particular Yorkshire line changing the spelling over time. And finally Fold is a surname which is concentrated in the south east of England, particularly around Sussex. My research indicates that the meaning of the surname is probably the same as Foulds/Folds ie. a topographical name for an animal fold, but that it is quite likely it arose separately from the Pennine development. Fold is a suffix used very frequently in Sussex and Surrey place names.
Hugh del Foldis 1275 (Wakefield), Adam in le Fold 1327 (Derbyshire), John atte Fold 1327 (Somerset), Adam de Falde 1332 (Staffordshire), John del ffald 1332 (Cumberland). The latter four are found in Subsidy Rolls, the former in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield.
The earliest mentions in the IGI are:
Elizabethe Fouldes, daughter of James Fouldes, buried 19th June 1521 in Lancashire.
Robert Fouldes, buried 28th September 1523 in Lancashire.
Male Folds, baptised 1541, Wingerworth (Derbyshire).
There were two Foulds or Folds families identified early on in the Forest of Trawden in Lancashire, one in Wycoller and one in Beardshaw. Geoffrey Folds was at Beardshaw in 1527 and his son James in 1547. Piers Folds was at Wycoller. The family remained at Trawden until the nineteenth century, appearing in hearth tax returns and other documentation. (Key references include the History of the County of Lancaster Vol 6 - included in www.british-history.ac.uk, and the Annals of Trawden Forest by Fred Bannister, 1992.)
A nineteenth century book called the Sayings and Doings of the Rev. James Folds (Joseph Dodson Greenhalgh and James Folds) refers to his direct descent from 'an ancient and respectable family of that name, of Danes House, now a deserted mansion situated about half a mile to the north of Burnley ..' The 'Danes House' tree is one that I have researched thoroughly, with assistance from existing publications, manorial records, parish records and information from current descendants. It extends from c. 1425 in Burnley right through to present day, with significant branches in Lancashire, Ireland, the USA and Hertfordshire. There are several other trees which are beginning to extend back into the 1500's, including one around the Blackburn area of Lancashire.
Early references in the United States include Elizabeth Foulds who migrated with her husband and three children to Bucks County, Pennsylvania from Marsden, Lancashire, in 1699, but died two months after arrival, with her children being taken under the care of the Middletown Meeting.
Famous people bearing the Foulds surname include the following:
JOHN HERBERT FOULDS, British composer of classical music (1880 - 1939).
John Foulds was a controversial figure, whose daring, creative abilities were scorned by many in the musical world at the time. He further upset the establishment by failing to serve in the First World War as well as espousing political beliefs deriving from his underprivileged background, which were feared by those who had seen the Russian Revolution of 1907. He was largely self taught and used a technique called 'clairaudience' to compose, whereby strict dieting and meditation enabled him to receive his music as dictation from the spirit world. His second marriage was to the Irish writer and musician, Maud MacCarthy. After moving to India in 1935, he immersed himself in Indian music and synthesising it with Western music. One of his best known works is the Requiem, which was played from 1923 to 1926 at the Armistice Day Festival, using no fewer than 1,250 musicians. After his death, his work was largely ignored by the musical establishment although the Requiem was performed once again in 2007 on Remembrance Day at the Royal Albert Hall. Other works include orchestral works such as Epithalamium and Three Mantras, plus lighter works such as the Keltic Suite.
ADAM FOULDS, poet and novelist (born 1974)
Adam Foulds was awarded Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2008 for his comic debut novel, The Truth about these Strange Times. His verse novella, The Broken Word, won the Costa Poetry Prize in 2008. The novella presents the story of a public school boy experiencing the Kenyan Mau Mau uprising of the 1950's on his family farm in Kenya, before proceeding to Oxford. Foulds explores a white settler's personal experience of the uprising and his new life, juxtaposed against the suffering he is removed from. The Quickening Maze was published in 2009. It focuses on the incarceration of the poet John Clare in High Beach Asylum in Epping Forest and was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.
ELFRIDA VIPONT FOULDS, teacher and writer (1902 - 1992)
Elfrida Vipont married R Percy Foulds, a research technologist in 1926. She became a teacher, a writer and was a lifelong member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). She wrote books on Quakerism, short biographies and many books for children. The Lark on the Wing (1950) is a children's book for which she won the Carnegie Medal in Literature. By far her most famous book is the Elephant and the Bad Baby (1969), for which she collaborated with illustrator Raymond Briggs, of James and the Snowman fame.
In my own direct family line, there is JOHN TORR FOULDS, Engineer and Chief Millwright, London Bridge Waterworks (born 1742, Derbyshire, died 1815 London). He was one of the foremost early engineers of his day. In 1795 he received the Gold Medal of the Society of Arts for inventing a machine which cut piles under water. He played a notable role in the planning of the West India Docks and the early phases of the City Ship Canal. He was admitted to the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers in 1793 and became Master of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers in 1801.
FOLDS had a frequency of 5 per million names in 1881, reducing to 2 by 1998. FOWLDS had, by comparison, slightly increased in frequency, moving from 3 per million in 1881 to 4 by 1998.
Internationally, in 1998, the frequency of the surname Foulds per million names was very similar in Canada to Great Britain, lower in New Zealand (71% of the GB frequency rate), Australia (49% of the GB rate) and fairly low in the USA (12% of the GB rate).
FOLDS: Although there was some presence of the surname Folds in the 1881 census in Lancashire, this variant has a notable geographical pattern, being confined very largely to the area around Hertfordshire and the north of London. In fact this is an offshoot branch of the Danes House Lancashire tree, mentioned above.
FOWLDS: This surname also had a notable geographical pattern, along the Pennine spine. There was a clustering around Chester/North Wales in 1881 and some usage across Mid Wales. In Scotland, there was a marked distribution along the west coast.
By 1998, the Foulds surname was found across a broader span of the northern counties, stretching from Cumbria to Leicester, although still with the highest concentration in Lancashire and W. Yorkshire. The top UK town by total occurrence was Colne, Lancashire (www.britishsurnames.co.uk). There were higher frequencies around London and the home counties, and areas of high urbanisation such as the Southampton area. The distribution on the west coast of Scotland also remained.
There is a separate word meaning sheepfold in Cornish and the surname is found very infrequently there. The surname Fould is found in France and Germany but has a completely different derivation.
You may find our other Guild websites of interest: