Family Names and Family History

David Hey looks at what our surnames can tell us about our origins.

Every county of England  still has its distinctive names. Staffordshire has its Eardleys, Salts, Tooths and Wooliscrofts, Derbyshire its Greatorexes, Heathcotes, Ollerenshaws and Shimwells, Cornwall its Angoves, Annears, Keasts and Penhaligons, and Lancashire its Entwistles, Fazackerleys, Ramsbottoms and Sowerbuttses. Names can tell us a lot about the history of the English, about how they moved around or how they stayed rooted in a particular district. They also have much to teach us about the social structure of medieval and later England, its various ranks and occupations, the languages and dialects that were spoken, the sense of humour in bestowing nicknames, and the strong regional differences that are still apparent today.   

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