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«P.H.REANEY Litt.D., Ph.D., F.S.A. Third edition with corrections and additions by R.M.WILSON M.A. LONDON AND NEW YORK First published as A Dictionary ...»

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Fransson has suggested several methods by which heredity can be inferred when relationship is not given. When two men of the same name are distinguished by the addition of senior and junior, it is a fair assumption that they were father and son.56 Such examples are fairly common in the subsidy rolls and later.

Further, he notes that in the subsidy rolls it is not uncommon to find several men of the same name assessed in the same village and suggests, very plausibly, that where the surname is a nickname, it has become hereditary. The same might be said of patronymics.

Local surnames are not safe instances. There is no proof that the man did not actually live at the place. Similarly, an occupational name may well mean that the man followed that particular occupation. But when a trade-name, different from the surname, follows it, we may safely assume that the surname was hereditary. His caution that a man might have had two trades or that a trade-name might be a nickname seems unnecessary. Examples are found in London in the thirteenth century and elsewhere later, though they are rare where they would be most valuable—in the subsidy rolls: John le Spencer, spicer 1306 LoCt; John Pistor, Taillour 1319 SRLo; John Mariner, hatter 1327 Pinchbeck (Sf); John le Fyssher, pistor, Robert Muleward, carpentarius 1353 Putnam (W).

Where material is available, a further test is to compare different documents of different periods relating to the same village. For Suffolk we have two surveys of the manors of the Bishop of Ely for 1221 and 1277, full of names. Many of these peasants had no surname and most bore English or Scandinavian names. In fifteen parishes, we find the same surname in 1221 and 1277 as in the subsidy of 1327 and these can safely be regarded as hereditary. Only two or three parallels are found, as a rule, in any one parish, but in Glemsford, six surnames occur in both 1221 and 1277, 2 in 1277 and 1327, and one (Curteis) in all three years. In Rattlesden, seven surnames occur both in 1221 and 1327, Haliday twice in each year, Barun twice in 1221, Hardheved twice in 1327.

For the Bury manors we have a subsidy of 1283 for Blackburn Hundred, unfortunately damaged, with the loss of many names, and surveys of the Hundreds of Thedwestrey, Thingoe, Blackburn, Cosford and Babergh c1 188–90. These surveys are much less detailed than those of the Ely manors and contain many fewer names. In 27 parishes we find some of the surnames of 1327 also in one or both the earlier documents, cumulative evidence that surnames were becoming hereditary throughout the county. In Stanton, N.Wluric of 1283 probably owed his surname to Wuluricus filius fabri of 1188. Cat is found in all three documents, Hubert and Kenne in 1283 and 1327, Cauel and Brunston in 1188 and 1327. In Hopton, Honington and Troston six, in Walsham five, and in Culford, Rickinghall and Ixworth Thorpe four surnames occur in both 1283 and 1327.

A noteworthy feature of the southern subsidy rolls is the large number of surnames formed from Old English personal names no longer in use in the county: Worcestershire (1275) 203, Somerset (1327) 208, Suffolk (1327) 441, Surrey (1332) 85; Yorkshire (1297) 17, Lancashire (1332) 1. The complete disappearance of these personal-names proves that the surnames must have become hereditary. There is also evidence of a marked difference between north and south and a hint of a variation in the rate of development in the southern counties themselves.

Much detailed work remains to be done before the full facts can be known. But it appears that surnames among the common people became hereditary later than those of the upper classes. They are found in the thirteenth century and are well established in the south by the middle of the fourteenth. But there is clear proof that many men still had no surname and that many were still not hereditary. In 1381 SRSf, whilst 5 men followed a trade different from that indicated by their surname, there were 20 whose surname denoted their occupation (John Soutere, soutere; Walter Webb, webber). Later examples of the instability of surnames are: William Saukyn alias Archer (1442), Philip Daunce alias Defford (1473); John Walworth, called Mundis (1502), John Bullok alias Byde (1527), Richard Bolle alias Bronde (1568 ER 61); Richard Johnson alias Jackeson, whose daughters were Margaret Richardson and Elizabeth Richardson 1568 AD v (Ch);

Richard son of Geoffrey Reynald of Edmascote otherwise called Richard Ryvelle, otherwise Richard son of Joan, daughter of William Ryvell 1408 Cl. Another example of a surname from a mother’s name is: John Organ of Treworian, son of Organa, wife of Ives de Treworian 1327 AD v.

Yorkshire Names

The editor of Freemen of York57 notes that surnames were chiefly from place-names or trade-names. In the earlier years, patronymics were non-existent except as ‘Thomas filius Johannis de Wistow’ (1295), or, ‘Thomas filius Johannis praepositi de Wistow’ (1295).

Names such as ‘Johannes filius Davidis, pulter’ (1277) were exceptional. The earliest name in -son is 1323. ‘It is still later [than the reign of Henry IV] before we find the son invariably taking his father’s name; one of the last, if not the last instance to the contrary, occurs in [1431] when we find Robertus de Lynby, fil. Thomae Johnson.’ Derogatory nicknames survived late: Henry Scrapetrough, molendinarius 1293; William Whitebrow, plasterer 1333; John Nevergelt, goldsmyth 1431; William Heteblack, baker 1460.

A tenement in Nawton was acquired by a certain Abraham and passed to his son Robert and so to John Abraham grandfather of William Abraham who held it in 1298.58 This surname goes back, therefore, to 1200 or earlier. In the thirteenth century, William Samson owed his surname to his great grandfather Sansom de Alreton (Kirkstall). There is some evidence of heredity of surnames, too, in York where a number of freemen followed occupations different from those denoted by their surnames: Richard le warner, carnifex 1319; Richard le sauser, pelter, son of John le Sauser 1331; Thomas le hosteler,

mariner 1331; Adam Fetheler, mercer 1360. But there is much evidence to the contrary:

William Belle, son of Andrew le taillour 1316; William Candler, son of Robert de Stoke 1324; Thomas le parchemyner, son of John le hatter 1334; Johannes filius Willelmi filii Ricardi de Carleton, draper 1339; William Whitehals son of Henry de Marston, webster 1369; John Byller, baxter, son of Henry Holtbyman, milner 1427.

The Yorkshire Subsidy Rolls confirm the impression that surnames were transient and ephemeral. There are only occasional hints of heredity. Most surnames were local, occupational or nicknames. In 1297 (3,160 names) 17 per cent had names of the filiustype; in 1301 (8,400 names) 21 per cent; in 1327 (4,500 names) 13 per cent; christian name plus christian name (e.g. Robert Reyner) accounted for 6 per cent in 1297, 3 per cent in 1301 and 1327. Names like Johnson were very rare: 2 in 1297, 5 in 1301, 12 in 1327.

The West Riding Poll-tax of 1379 (19,600 names) provides material quite unlike that found in the south and paralleled only by the East Riding Poll-tax of 1381. The filius-type of name is much less common than in 1327; that in -son much more common. What is noticeable is the frequency of names in -wyf, and -doghter and those of servants in -man,

-servant, -woman, -mayden, besides names indicating other relationships in -brother, cosyn, -syster, -stepson:

Matilda Hanwyfe, Elena Hobsonwyf, Beatrice Clerkwyf, Alice Caresonewyf, Dionisia Raulynwyf, Johanna Jackewyf Matilda ffoxdoghter, Isabella Shephirddoghter, Johanna Rosedoghter, Johanna Malkyndoghter, Magota Stevendoghter, Johana Robyndoghter In two instances we have a man’s surname: Robertus ffelisdoghter et Cecilia vxor ejus;

Richard Wryghtdoghter John Websterman, Thomas Masonman. Husband and wife were at times servants of the same man: William Mathewman, Magota Mathewwoman; Adam Parsonman, Emma Parsonwoman Richard Hogeservant, Johanna Vikarservant, Elena Houchounservant Isabella Vikerwoman, Johanna Prestewoman, Margareta Hallewoman Matilda Marschalmaydyn, Alice Gibmayden, Elisot’ Milessonmayden, Alice Martynmayden Robert Parsonbrother, Henry Parsoncosyn, Agnes Vikercister, Alice Prestsyster servant, John Robertstepson In these names, the suffix was often added to the surname and the master, etc., may be

named separately:

John Odson, Alice Odsonwyf; William de Bilton, Roger Biltonman; Robert de Wallerthwayte, Margareta Wallerthwaytdoghter; Emma Hurle, Johanna Hurlemayden;

Ellota de Helagh, Agnes Helaghmayden; John Whitebred, Adam Wytbredman, John Adamson Whitebredman

Similarly, names in -son were also based on the surname:

John Payg, John Paygson; Richard Parlebene, Robert Parlebeneson; Matilda Millot’, Roger Millotson; John Websterson; Adam Souterson. cf. also Roger Taylourson, Agnes Taylourdoghter; William Saunderson, Alice Saunderdoghter; William Milnerson, Agnes Milnerwyf. The wife of Roger Wright was Elena Wrightwyf; his son, John Wrightson.

The sons of William Jonson are named William Willeson Johanson and Benedict Willeson Johnson; that of Robert Hudson was William Robynson Hudson. Wives were similarly named: Margareta Wilkynwyf Raulynson, Agnes Dycounwyfdowson.

It is abundantly clear that in the north surnames became hereditary much later than in the south. There is a fair amount of evidence that a number of occupation names had become hereditary, but many certainly had not. In his Memoirs of the Wilsons of Bromhead,59 Joseph Hunter demolishes the earlier pedigrees by proving errors of heralds and forging of documents. The family descended ultimately from William, father of John de Hunshelf or de Waldershelf (b. c1320) but owed their surname, not to this William, but to William (1369–87), father of John Wilson de Bromhead who is called John son of William son of John de Waldershelf in 1398. Hunter notes that John Dyson de Langeside derived his surname from his mother Dionysia de Langside (1369) and that a Thomas Richardson was the son of Richard de Schagh (1409). ‘This (1380)’, he concludes, ‘was the age at which that class of surnames, which end in -son, began to be assumed’, a conclusion not inconsistent with the evidence above.


Hereditary surnames in Wales are a post-sixteenth century development. Many of the modern surnames derived from old Welsh personal names arose in England where they became hereditary in the fourteenth century or earlier, long before such surnames were known in Wales; some, in the eastern counties, derive from Breton immigrants. The normal type of Welsh name was a patronymic: Madog ap Jevan ap Jorwerth, ‘Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth’, a type which resulted ultimately in such names as Pumfrey, Benian, Bevan, etc. In 1292,48 per cent of Welsh names were patronymics of this kind (in some parishes, over 70 per cent); others included nicknames, occupation-names and some local surnames. The great majority of the surnames in the Extent of Chirk (1392–3) were of this patronymic type, with occasional nicknames (Jevan Gough, Ithel Lloit, Grono Vachann), rare occupational-names (Madog Taillour), and a few simple personalnames (Jevan Annwyl, Jevan Gethin), none of which were hereditary.

In later Chirk documents these patronymics are still the normal form. In 1538, all the thirteen men of a jury had names like: John ap Madog ap Gryffyd ap Res junior. There is evidence that a change had begun. Edward ap Richard and Edward ap Robert point to the future preponderance of the Welsh Jones, Williams and Roberts. In 1536 we find one such name already hereditary: John Edwards son of William Edwards. It was only in the reign of Henry VIII that surnames began to be hereditary among the gentry of Wales and the custom spread only slowly among the common people. Even in the nineteenth century, in Merionethshire, it was still not uncommon for a man to take his father’s christian name as his surname: e.g. William Roberts son of Robert Williams. The three sons of Evan Thomas and Gwen Jones were known as Howal Thomas, Hugh Evans and Owen Jones, surnames derived (i) from the father’s surname, (ii) from his christian name, (iii) from the mother’s surname. In the nineteenth century, the frequency of Jones, Williams, etc., brought a need for further distinction and a tendency developed to create double surnames by prefixing the name of a house, parish or the mother’s surname, as Cynddylan Jones, Rhondda Williams, etc.60 In the following generation a hyphen was often introduced, hence Nash-Williams, etc.


The earliest surnames in Scotland, found in the reign of David I (1124–53), were those of Normans: Robert de Brus, Robert de Umfraville, Gervase Ridel, etc., surnames which had already become hereditary in England and were later to be reinforced by such names as Balliol, Cumin, etc. In the towns, the burgesses bore English or continental personal names, with trade-names or occasional nicknames.

In Scotland, early material for the study of surnames is much later than in England.

Many names are undocumented before the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, a period so late that definite etymologies are often impossible. ‘The largest and most authentic enumeration now extant of the nobility, barons, landowners and burgesses as well as of the clergy of Scotland, prior to the fourteenth century,’ is the Ragman Roll61 which records the deeds of homage made to Edward I in 1296—an English official document.

‘No part of the public records of Scotland prior to that era has been preserved from which any detailed information of the kind might have been derived.’62 The surnames in the Ragman Roll are, for the most part, of the same type as those found in English sources of the same period—local, patronymic, occupational and nicknames. A number of local surnames derive from places in Scotland. Gaelic surnames occur, but form a distinct minority: e.g. Fergus Mac Dowilt, Macrath ap Molegan, Huwe Kenedy, Dovenal Galbrathe.

In 1382, of 56 tenants of Fermartyne excommunicated by the Bishop of Aberdeen,63 23 had names like Robertus filius Abraam. Celtic personal names were rare. The solitary Gaelic surname is Adam Kerde (Caird ‘craftsman’). Of the 23 surnames, 4 are patronymics from OE personal-names, Bronnyng, with three examples of Freluf (v.

Browning, Freelove); 12 are local; one is Scandinavian, John Grefe (v. Grave); 3 are occupational (Cissor, Barkar, Faber); 2 are nicknames (Gray, Mykyl).

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