A Dictionary of English Surnames by P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson

By P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson

This vintage dictionary solutions questions comparable to those and explains the origins of over 16,000 names in present English use. it will likely be a resource of fascination to everybody with an curiosity in names and their heritage.

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Such names indicate the beginning of a hereditary surname, but proof that it became established is often lacking: Hugo filius Wisman, Hugo Wisman 1166–7 P (Nf) Walterus filius Abelot, Walter Abelot 1195–6 P (Sa) John le fiz michel 1292 SRLo, John Michel 1301 LoCt Paganus le Cachepol, father of William Payn 1285 Ass (Ess) John Gerveis son of Gervase de Pelsedun 1299 AD vi (K) Such names as the following are probably already hereditary: Reginald Ridel son of Hugh Ridel 1156–80 Bury (Nth) Ralph Belet son of William Belet 1176 P (Sr) William Brese son of Roger Brese 1210 P (Nf) Gote Ketel, brother of Peter Ketel; Thomas Ketel son of Peter Ketel c1200, 1218–22 StP (Lo) Clear evidence of heredity: A charter of 1153 of Agnes de Sibbeford, wife of Ralph Clement, is witnessed by Hugo Clement and William, son of Ralph Clement, who is later called Willelmus Clemens, with a brother Robertus Clemens (1155 Templars).

Monasteries drew up surveys and extents with details of tenants of all classes and their services. And later the net was thrown wider in the long lists of those assessed in the subsidy rolls. It was the official who required exact identification of the individual. His early efforts often consisted of long-winded descriptions attached to a personal name. Any description which definitely identified the man was satisfactory—his father’s name, the name of his land, or a nickname known to be his. The upper classes—mostly illiterate—were those with whom the officials were chiefly concerned and among them surnames first became numerous and hereditary.

In 1538, all the thirteen men of a jury had names like: John ap Madog ap Gryffyd ap Res junior. There is evidence that a change had begun. Edward ap Richard and Edward ap Robert point to the future preponderance of the Welsh Jones, Williams and Roberts. In 1536 we find one such name already hereditary: John Edwards son of William Edwards. It was only in the reign of Henry VIII that surnames began to be hereditary among the gentry of Wales and the custom spread only slowly among the common people.

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