Friday, December 18, 2009

UK Family Name Origins Project Launched

Largest Ever UK Family Name Origins Project Launched

December 18, 2009

The University of the West of England is preparing to launch the largest ever study of family surname origins from the British Isles. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, headed up by Linguistics Professor Richard Coates, with lead researcher Dr. Patrick Hanks (lexicographer).
The goal of the project is to gather reliable information on up to 150,000 UK surnames, and enter them into a database available on a public website. They hope to use published and unpublished resources dating back to the 11th century. The goal is to obtain more reliable information than found in current epytomological dictionaries on the subject.

For the purpose of comparison, I am obligated to say that the "Origins" volume of "A Short History of the HAM Surname in Virginia & NC" dates the use of the word "Ham" back to the third century in Europe, and the HAM DNA Project is helping to pinpoint the exact location of origin of the HAM Surname in England. Those of you that follow this blog probably already know that the "Ham" is a place name meaning a homestead, or a variation thereof.

For example, in the "Origins" volume, you will find the use of the HAM surname dating from the 11th century in about two dozen towns in County Somerset alone. And aside from County Somerset, the book also mentions more than a dozen other Counties in England. (Information regarding the names of the Lords of Ham in France dates from about the 9th century.)

Additionally, the HAM DNA Project has helped to pinpoint the most likely areas of origin in England. The DNA Project has provided Y-Search studies on the origins of four HAM family DNA groups and actually have a DNA match for HAM(M/E) families who would otherwise not have information about locating surname origins. So, I suspect that the study will be missing both the information from our book, but also missing information gathered from the HAM DNA Project.

However, it is reassuring to know that somebody has launched a project to gather more widespread information on the origins of UK family names. Those of you who do not have out book should have access to this database by about 2014. The project appears to be lead by experts in their field, and the meaning and location of origins of a name is a subject of intense interest to genealogists, both amateur and professional.

For more information on the project, see:

Article in the UK Independent by Sarah Cassidy:
Press release from the University of West England:
Formal description of the project from the Arts & Humanities Research Council:
For more information specific to the HAM surname, see also: Article on surname origins at HAM Country:

Videos on HAM surname origins:

HAM Surname Counties of Origins

For DNA evidence about HAM surname origins:

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