20 January 2011

Family Names

You may know that one of the topics of interest to me is the origin of names - and all sorts of other topics to do with names and naming.  I even devote an entire blog on the subject, which is, of course, called By Any Other Name.

The links between family names and geography is quite a fascinating one, especially if the names in question happen to be part of your own family history.

Here are a few links to websites you may find interesting:

Public Profiler - World Names
(I have used it mainly to find out the common surnames of particular districts, especially in Italy and Belgium.)

Public Profiler - GB Names
(I have used the surnames page with the year 1881 chosen, and have discovered more about my family origins that way.)

Guild of One-Name Studies

Wikipedia - One-name studies

Wikipedia - Surname DNA project

Many of my own ancestors' family names are very common, though with many variations in their location.  Having regional family origins may sometimes become clearer through a one-name search, though it still depends on tracing back the written records step by step.

Here are links to a couple of my By Any Other Name blog posts about family names.  I hope they will enhance your reflections:

Family honour and freedom

Origins of family names

And here are a few Wikipedia links to some of the very common surnames that have appeared in my family history - though none of my relatives have biographies on Wikipedia, as far as I am aware:

Bailey | Barker | Cole | Harris | Lloyd | Clark or Clarke | Rowe | Morgan | Nash | Howell or Howells | Wilson | but I am yet to find a Smith or a Jones!

What are the most common surnames in your family history - and the most unusual?


  1. Thanks for an interesting article with helpful links. I think the most unusual name in my family tree is probably MUSTELL - or at least, it seems to have been uncommon in England in the early 1800s, which is what interests me.

    Comments on one of my Genealogy Leftovers blog posts ('Name Search Challenge') mention some very odd surnames.

  2. Hello Judy

    I hope things are well with you in Queensland with all the rain and floods. It must be particularly distressing for people who have lost their family photographs and other heirlooms to the unpredictable powers of nature.

    I find that unusual names are a real bonus in family history research. They often lead to fascinating discoveries, and it can be easier to locate online records for them than for the multitude of ancestors with ordinary names.

    In my own research, some names I thought might have been unusual turned out to be quite common in their places of origin, often just in a remote village or two. I have explored family history in Italy and Belgium, for example - even though I do not speak the languages of those places.

    Is Mustell a French Norman or Huguenot name? It sounds similar to "Must Tell", don't you think?!

    Best wishes from Via

  3. I've only just seen your response to my comment! I don't know how accurate this is, but I've been told that MUSTELL is derived from a name of Old French origin, introduced into England after 1066. There are allegedly Huguenot connections a couple of generations back in my WEBSTER line (into which Anne MUSTELL married), but I have not yet researched that.


I especially appreciate historical insights.