Family Names of the United Kingdom 2

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Fac of Arts Creative Ind and Education


The proposed project, referred to below as FaNUK2, is to enlarge and to significantly enhance, in five additional ways, the resource created by the previously funded FaNUK1 project (2010-14), which seeks to explain the linguistic origin of all family names (FNs) in the UK with 100 or more bearers in the baseline year of 1997, and to establish as far as possible their geographical distribution and history for the benefit of genealogists, family historians, academic linguists (philologists), historians, and human geographers, as well as interested members of the general public.

(1) This bid is for support principally to lower the threshold for inclusion of traditional, established FNs in the database from those with 100 or more bearers in our baseline year 1997 to those with 20 bearers or more in our updated baseline year 2012. This will involve conducting entirely new research on about 15,000 additional FNs, not one of which has ever been satisfactorily explained. The definition of "traditional, established" FNs for this purpose is as in the current project (FaNUK1): names present both in the 1881 census and in our 1997 (2012) data. When this is done we can reasonably claim to have presented as nearly complete an account of the family names of the UK as is achievable in the present state of documented knowledge.

The new resource will be enhanced by the addition of other material and of hypertext links to relevant web sites or other means of accessing that material, in the following ways:

(2) In the course of FaNUK1 we have incidentally assembled information about several thousand recent immigrant names whose frequency of between 50 and 99 in the 1997 data means that they fall outside the scope of the deliverable of FaNUK1. This information will now be checked, enhanced where practicable, and entered in FaNUK2, though without further systematic research in all relevant languages.

(3=) At present, the database does not systematically explain the origin of place-names (like Worcester) or topographical descriptions (like Bourne, 'stream') which give rise to FNs. There are many such FNs, and we have agreement in principle with the English Place-Name Society (EPNS) to use its collected data to explain their origin for users of FaNUK2. This information will be made available through the JISC-funded DEEP project, whose purpose is precisely to make EPNS material available to academic projects and other academic users. Our present wish is to include a button in database entries which will take users directly to EPNS-derived material in the form of a summary etymology. This could be done for many though not all of the relevant place-names.

(3=) At present, the database does not systematically explain the origin of the given-names ("first names") underlying FNs of relationship; for example, the words behind names of Continental Germanic origin such as *Alice* or the Anglo-Saxon *Edmund* are not explained. This will be done for the 400 or so names for which it is relevant, though a certain amount of original research will be needed on some name-elements.

(5) We have negotiated with the author of the British Surname Atlas, Stephen Archer, for permission to use or adapt certain FN distribution maps in the research database which will constitute the output deliverable to AHRC.

(6) We will return to those relatively few difficult names which eluded explanation in FaNUK1 (because of time constraints) and which we already believe are capable of being resolved with further philological and documentary (historical and geographical) work.

Our estimate of the length of time in which all this could be achieved is 33 months.

Planned Impact

Those likely to be interested in and benefit from the proposed project include:

1. Amateur and professional genealogists and family historians, mainly outside academia

The principal value of the resource created will be as a guide to surname variation and distribution, helping researchers to pursue or discard hypothesized family links.

2. Archivists and cataloguers

A by-product of the research done for FaNUK1, continuing into FaNUK2, will be the creation of medieval <--> modern surname indexes which can be used by cataloguers. Some advance work has already been embarked on to this effect with The National Archives.

3. Members of the public participating in the current considerable level of popular interest in family history

4. Teachers using the FaNUK material as an aid when dealing with cultural and historical issues, especially concerning identity

We believe that the work is likely to be of considerable interest to the general public, will serve to increase the amount of reliable knowledge in public circulation in an area which is pursued by many people both seriously and as a hobby, and will thereby enhance quality of life.

The public impact will be felt piecemeal, name-search by name-search, immediately on publication.

*** Research and professional skills which staff working on the project will develop which is applicable in a range of employment sectors include:

1. Organizing very large quantities of complex data

2. Computation database and spreadsheet management

3. Giving public presentations taking research methods and findings beyong academia, i.e. introducing non-academic audiences to the findings of scholarly research in a "user-friendly" style and thereby contributing to a perception of the "accessibility" and "relevance" of academic work in the humanities.

4. Giving presentations of the project material in schools with a view to stimulating historical and linguistic awareness and contributing to debate about identity


10 25 50
Description Discovery of the origin of many surnames currently found in the UK and Ireland, and correction of previous explanations of many others: in total about 46000 names have been explained in the published Dictionary (2016). Some 10,000 more above our working frequency threshold were identified during the course of FaNUK 2 research for future publication, as well as many more already identified rarer ones for possible public dissemination if/when time and funding and resources permit. Funding is being sought for bringing this collection of information to the public.
Exploitation Route Expected to be of lasting public interest to the community of genealogists, professional and otherwise, in helping to establish or corroborate family histories. Team members continue to work on the database, including corrections and improvements, with a view to possible further bids for funding to develop the project in different directions. We also hope to produce a concise version of the database material for paper publication. Both these possibilities are under active discussion, but are not yet at the critical point.
Sectors Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Please see report on the first FaNUK project, of which this is an extension; what is said there is valid here.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Title Databasing software 
Description Customized lexicographical databasing software provided by Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic Also for *Research databases and models* section 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None external to the research team's methodology and practice 
Title Family Names of Britain and Ireland database 
Description Published massive annotated database of all family names with more than 100 bearers in 1881 and/or 2011. The underlying research database is even more massive, and will eventually enable the treatment of more infrequent surnames. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Considerably increased use of electronic resources within the project involving significant development work on the form of the database itself. Potential model for other projects to be described in upcoming invited events. Prospect of further funding bids involving computational and statistical manipulation of the material in the research database and associated databases. 
Description Catalogue initiative 
Organisation The National Archives
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Preparation of (possibly funded) work to apply the findings of the project in cataloguing initiatives, and for statistical analysis of the relation between surnames and locations
Collaborator Contribution Making available material from the PROB 11 and Chancery Proceedings collections
Impact No formal outcomes yet; funding bid anticipated at the date of writing
Start Year 2010
Description Family Names databasing 
Organisation Masaryk University
Country Czech Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Facilitation of the work of a Masaryk PhD student, Adam Rambousek
Collaborator Contribution Provision of databasing software and support for the project research database in the form of hosting, maintenance and troubleshooting
Impact The outputs are the research database in its current state, and the version now published by OUP Linguistics, onomastics, computational lexicography
Start Year 2010
Description Press releases at time of award and completion of project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Requests for interviews from national and local radio and print journalists (about 38). These generated follow-up requests for information and/or interviews from local print journals and radio stations. Together, these publicity activities provoked some 200+ emails requesting further information and in some cases providing usable detailed information for the future development of the Family Names project.

Requests for interviews and public talks; supply of information by interested members of the public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012,2014,2016
Description Public lectures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact At least 20 presentations to U3A and genealogist organizations, local history societies, and occasional fully public demonstrations. Many questions were raised and there was much discussion afterwards in all instances, based on demonstrations of the research database; some useful new information was provided to the project by the public on numerous occasions.

Some requests for talks to other bodies
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012,2013,2014
Description Radio interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The project has generated much media interest resulting in interviews relating specifically to family names, with knock-on interest in wider linguistic issues from radio stations and other media already acquainted with the work of team members.

Some email follow-ups from public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012,2013,2014
Description School visits (Bristol) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Questions and discussion based on pupil and teacher interest, satisfying requirements of KS2 History

Possible further such events mooted
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017