Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland

Update 20 November 2016. The publishers are providing free access to the dictionary until the end of November. To get the log in details see the press release from the UWE (you'll need to scroll right down to the bottom of the page).

The long-awaited Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland has finally been published. This dictionary is the fruit of six years' research by a team of academics at the University of the West of England, and is part of a project originally known as Family Names in the UK (FaNUK). It will be a valuable resource for information on the origins, history and geographical distribution of surnames in Britain and Ireland. Over 50,000 surnames are included in the database. The dictionary provides information on the current distribution of a surname in Britain and Ireland, the main location of the surname in Great Britain in 1881 and the main Irish location between 1847 and 1864. In the online version of the dictionary a map generated from Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD showing the distribution of the surname in 1881 is also provided. Variant spellings are provided, and early bearers of the surname are listed.

The dictionary is available in print for the princely sum of £400. At that price it is going to be beyond the reach of the average family historian but it should be possible to find printed copies in your nearest reference library. The dictionary is also available as an online database via Oxford Reference. This database is accessible with some library tickets and via institutional access. If your library does not subscribe then I would encourage you to write to them and ask if they can take out a subscription. I can't currently access the database with any of my library cards or via my UCL account, but UCL have already told me that they are investigating access so I hope to be able to log in soon.

The FaNUK team invited members of the Guild of One-Name Studies to complete a questionnaire providing information about their registered surnames. I contributed information on the surnames Cruse, Cruwys and variants. I  was sent a draft of the entry for my surnames back in 2014 and provided further input on the draft, but I haven't yet seen the final entry so I shall look forward to seeing how it has turned out. I was very pleased that the dictionary cited my profile page on the Guild of One-Name Studies website as one of the references they'd used.

There were originally plans to incorporate DNA evidence into the surname entries as I reported back in 2011, but that proposal did not come to anything.

You can learn more about the dictionary in these interviews with Professor Patrick Hanks and Dr Harry Parkin on YouTube as well as catching a few tantalising glimpses of some pages from the dictionary.

Further reading 

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