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Surnames have existed in Britain since circa 1100 and where initial introduced to distinguish between people with common first names. In many cases the surnames that have developed over time contain an inherent geography. Names can be classified into a number of categories, which included 'toponyms' (surnames based on location of origin or inhabitation, e.g. Slingsby or Ashby), 'patronyms' (taking surnames from their father's name, e.g. Johnson, Jones or Bevan) or 'metonyms' (being named after one's job, e.g. Webber or Miller) amongst others.

Different regions of Britain had a different preference for the adoption of surnames and further linguistic clues help demonstrate how names originate in different locations. Traditionally it has been possible to analyse these linguistic clues but the geographical element has largely been ignored. The Surname project at CASA aims to fill in the blanks and provide the infrastructure and basis on which statistical and spatial analyse can be carried out on surname patterns throughout Britain and the Anglophone world.

This webpage will be regularly updated with the latest news and work from the project. The present stage of work is in constructing the core datasets, focussing mainly on Great Britain. This has required the standardisation of spellings (for instance dealing with McDonald, Mcdonald, Mc Donald and so on, all of which are just different variant spellings of the same name) and developing a robust statistical way of measuring the level of clustering surname exhibit.

In addition to this, we are attempting to develop a classification of surnames, which will group the different names together by their origins. Presently we have three levels of classification, and a total of 309 unique categories. By using the classification lookup tool you will be able to check what grouping your own name fits into.

For further information please contact Daryl Lloyd on