One of the key things with starting a One-Name Study is how big is it going to be?
Not all surnames are equal and understanding the frequency of the surname will be determining factor. The more frequency a surname appears, then the bigger the study is going to be and the more time it will take to collect, analyse and organise.
Whilst a large study is a challenge, they are, in the modern era very achievable. A fellow member of the Guild of One-Name Studies told me that it took him 10 years to collect all the instances of his surname from the General Registration Office (GRO) indexes. Now, thanks to sites like FreeBMD it is possible to download the data in a matter of minutes. That study has gone on to create a large database of about 77,000 instances of the surname. That study is the Featherstone One-Name Study which began in the 1990’s. Another large study is that of the Howes One-Name Study, which began about 10 years ago and has circa 130,000 individuals in reconstructed families.
For a moment, lets turn our attention to surnames whose origins are England and Wales. To determine the frequency of those names, we would look see how many instances of the name occur in the 1881 Census.
- 1-30 Tiny study
- 30-300 Small study
- 300 – 3,000 Medium study
- 3,000 – 30,000 Large study
- 30,000 – 300,000 Extra large study
- >300,000 are huge studies such as Jones Smith
For my Orlando One-Name Study, there are less than 300 in England and Wales, so that appears to be a small study, but the surname is an Italian one, with huge peaks of migration to other Countries – I have previously written about the Surname Profiler Map
For surnames in the United States turn to Ancestry and check the frequency of the surname there.
There are other considerations too, in the case of European surnames there will be peaks of mass migration caused by important aspects of European history.
There is a useful page on the Guild of One-Name Studies website about choosing a surname and about the size of a study. In fact you can see the numbers relating to the Orlando, Featherstone and Howes studies, so it is worth reading and you can do so here
Try out Tip – using the surnames of your four grandparents, would they be suitable as One-Name Studies? And if no, why not? – Go on, leave a comment or write about it on you own blog and leave the URL below.
More details and information is covered in the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course.