Dec 212016

This week Way Back Wednesday will concentrate on two of our surname studies with unusual letters: Yardy and Zebedee.

Yardy is a rare name centred on the Fenlands of England – Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire. The study has been going some two years and has studied clusters starting in Walpole St Peter, Whittlesey, March and Glatton (the Yeardye variant) along with migrations to USA, Canada and Australia (transportation!). Publications of this study, further details and news updates can be found on the study website: [information taken from David Skyrme, studier, on the Surname Study website]


Showing my age here: “Time for bed,” said Zebedee – recognise it?  But Zebedee is also a surname.  Sue Faull says:william-morris-letter-z-300px “I am mainly interested in the Zebedee surname from Wiltshire, but as I have not found a baptism for my 6x gt grandfather named James Zebedee in the county, I have decided to look at all the occurrences of the name.”

In 2017, Way Back Wednesday moves from Wednesday to Saturday and becomes Surname Saturday.  Free advertising! as we will be taking various names that members are studying – in alphabetical order, like now.  So if you would like to present a brief piece on your surname, feel free!

© Ros Haywood
School of  Surnames

Please send any brief items on your study to Ros Haywood at sos [at]

letters Y and Z courtesy of

Dec 072016

“But wait!” I hear you cry.  “What does a weight have to do with surname studies?” The answer: I am not talking about weights here – the types which usually appear with measures.  I am talking about waits – the musical sort.

(I could have written W is for Workhouse, but that seemed too sad for nearly Christmas-time.)

Town waits were musicians who were organised to play for ceremonies and special occasions, such as fairs and weddings.  You may still think that such a frivolous topic can hardly have anything to do with surname studies – but wait (ha ha! see what I did there?).  Waits started appearing in records from the Middle Ages right up to the eighteenth century: purchases of cloaks and ribbons, hiring, and payments for such things as musical instruments.  And where there are records – there are surnames!



This isn’t a post with a strange word you never heard of that starts with ‘X’.  Nor is it a post about a word which just happens to have an ‘x’ in it somewhere.

‘X’ was often quite a big part of some people’s lives.  Nowadays, illiteracy is fodder for newspapers who want a screaming headline or two – but a couple of hundred years ago, there was not nearly as much stigma about not being able to read and write.  If you could, then you were regarded with some awe.  I’m sure you have come across signatures on marriage certificates (for instance), where you almost wish they had signed with an ‘X’ instead.

But the signatures of the bride and groom were not originally required.  Everybody in the parish expected the parish clerk to be able to read and write, and therefore he would enter the names and dates.  And, of course, he would spell things the way he thought they should be spelt.  Like Winyfort for Winifred.  I wonder if she would have made an ‘X’ at the time of her marriage (1676) if it had been required?

And sometimes, icons were used instead of the ‘X’.  This is known as an autograph…

© Ros Haywood
School of  Surnames

Next week’s letters are ‘Y’ and ‘Z’. Has anybody got any interesting snippets that marry these up with with surname studies?  If so, please send them to Ros Haywood at sos [at]

letters W and X courtesy of
Original text and image for ‘Letter X Post’ from GenWestUK

Nov 232016

Two for the price of one this week!

U is for URL – Uniform Resource Locator  (or, more familiarly to most of us: web address) – and this week’s website covers our only U name being studied: Uridge.  As the site states: “URIDGE or EURIDGE is a very unique name with only 121 instances in the UK Office of National Statistics database for 2002.”  There are pages packed with interesting information, photos, narratives, and charts.


william-morris-letter-v-300pxV is for VCH – Victoria History of the Counties of England – was begun in 1899.  Each county’s History covers general topics, political, social, and natural history, religious houses, nonconformity, education, archaeology, economic history, and a translation of the relevant part of the Domesday Book. 

Terrick Fitzhugh states that “a great deal of information can be found in them on families of manorial status, often covering several generations.”


© Ros Haywood
School of  Surnames

Next week’s letter is ‘W’. Has anybody got any interesting snippets that marry up W with surname studies?  If so, please send them to Ros Haywood at sos [at]

letters U and V courtesy of

Nov 172016

Have you ever transcribed something?  If you are a genealogist, you probably have.  If you are a secretary, you probably have.  If you are a human being, you probably have.  According to the Free Dictionary, there are many different definitions of ‘transcribe’:

1. To make a full written or typewritten copy of (dictated material, for example).
2. Computers To transfer (information) from one recording and storing system to another.
3. Music

a. To adapt or arrange (a composition) for a voice or instrument other than the original.
b. To translate (a composition) from one notational system to another.
c. To reduce (live or recorded music) to notation.
4. To record, usually on tape, for broadcast at a later date.
5. Linguistics To represent (speech sounds) by phonetic symbols.
6. To translate or transliterate.
7. Biology To cause (DNA) to undergo transcription.
Several of us have complained when a company has employed foreign nationals to transcribe writing from their own country (for instance, ‘Taunton, Som.’ in an English census record, which was actually ‘Taunton, Somerset’, was transcribed as ‘Taunton, Somalia’!) Many companies insist that you only transcribe what is written e.g. if it says ‘Taunton, Som.’, then you transcribe it as ‘Taunton, Som.’  That would certainly avoid the transfer of a town from its proper place in rural England over to Somalia… Others say that if it is obvious and you know it (such as ‘Thos’ being ‘Thomas’, or ‘Wm’ being ‘William’) then you should expand the abbreviation.  But danger begins to creep in.  I have ancestors named ‘Tom’ and ‘Ben’ on their birth certificates.  If someone thought they knew, and expanded the names to ‘Thomas’ and ‘Benjamin’ – they would, in fact, be incorrect.
And is it a transcript, or a transcription?  ‘Transcription’ is the act of making a transcript.  So why do many companies and organisations say that something comes from a transcription?  Add your thoughts in the comments below.


© Ros Haywood
School of  Surnames

Next week’s letter is ‘U’. Has anybody got any interesting snippets that marry up U with surname studies?  If so, please send them to Ros Haywood at sos [at]

letter T courtesy of
definition of transcribe from the Free Dictionary at

Nov 092016

[Well, it had to be really, didn’t it?]

In previous Way Back Wednesdays we have mentioned patronymics and nicknames.  Here are two more sources for surnames: location and topography.  In Yorkshire and Lancashire this is very common; in Cornwall you will find names which start with Bos, Car, Lan, Pol, Pen, Ros, and Tre being very common as well.  The Norman barons associated with William the Conqueror were some of the first to have surnames, and these were mostly linked to their estates. A person’s surname might be where he was born (such as Poole) or where he was living (such as Atwell – or ‘at the well’).

Topography is more about the shape of the land than the name of a farmstead. Topography helped with surnames, too, such as Brook, Green, Hill, and Wood – then these were passed down as hereditary surnames until maybe the most recent holder of a name like Hill lives on the Somerset Levels (a coastal plain), Mr Brook lives in a central area of London, while Miss Green lives in Dubai.

It is not always easy (nor advisable) to take one look at a surname and pronounce that it definitely originated in such-and-such a place.  Spellings may have changed it over time – and so may deed polls! – and the original meaning may also have changed.  Still, as with anything in genealogy…it may be a clue.


© Ros Haywood
School of  Surnames

Next week’s letter is ‘T’. Has anybody got any interesting snippets that marry up T with surname studies?  If so, please send them to Ros Haywood at sos [at]

letter S courtesy of