Yorkshire surnames

surnames: find yours

For the last nine years I have written a short column for Down Your Way magazine in which I look at the origin of surnames. I’ve concentrated mainly on Yorkshire names because that is the area covered by the publication. When researching the origins of surnames it is wise to look beyond the obvious – something often not done by some surname website compilers whose findings should often be taken with a pinch of salt. Over the centuries scribes and church officials did not always record names properly – perhaps they couldn’t understand a person’s accent, or colloquial terms were used. And it also has to be remembered that up to a couple of hundred years ago not a lot of people could read or write, so they wouldn’t know whether their surnames had been written down properly. There’s a certain amount of guesswork goes on in tracing surname origins and in some cases the truth has been lost over time. I’ve checked as many sources as possible for my research but I’ve also tried to keep my articles brief and light-hearted – I hope you find this section useful and entertaining.

Here is a list of the surnames so far covered. Click on the name and you will be taken directly to the appropriate text.

AINLEY    ALDERSON    ARMITAGE    ARMITSTEAD    ASKEY    ASQUITH    ATHA
ATHEY    AVEYARD    AYCKBOURN
BAIRSTOW    BALMER    BANNISTER    BARKER    BARLOW  BAYLISS    BELL   BENDELOW    BIRD    BLACK
BLENKINSOP BOLINGBROKE/BOLLING    BOOTH    BOYCOTT    BRADDY     BRADY    BRISTOW
BRODIE    BRONTE    BROOKSBANK     BROWN
CAPSTICK    CLEGG    CLOUGH    CORBETT    CRAVEN    CRAZY    CROSBY
DARNTON    DEIGHTON    DENIAL     DEWHIRST    DEXTER    DRAKE
EARNSHAW
FAWCETT    FAWKES    FAWTHROP    FEATHER
GAUKRODGER    GELDARD    GELDART    GLEWE    GRAINGER    GREEN    GREY
HARDISTY HARKER    HATTERSLEY   HEBBLETHWAITE    HEPWORTH   HESKETH    HOPKINSON     HORSFALL
ISSOTT
JEWSON    JOWETT
LEAROYD    LILEY    LISTER    LORD    LUMB
MAWSON    MAYNARD    MOXON
NOWELL
PAWSON    PETYT    PHINN PICKLES    POGSON    POPPLEWELL    PRATT    PRIESTLEY
RALEIGH    RAYNER    RHODES
SCAIFE SCHOLES    SPEIGHT    SPIVEY    SPURR    STOTT    STUBBS    SUTCLIFFE
SWALES     SYKES
TALBOT    TEE    THROP    TINGLE    TORDOFF    TRIGG    TWISLETON
VERITY
WADKIN    WALTON    WARDROP    WATERTON    WHITE    WIGFALL    WILDMAN    WIMPENNY
YORK(E)

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AINLEY
Whenever we hear the place-name Ainley nowadays it is usually because there’s some horrendous hold-up on the M62 motorway at Ainley Top above Brighouse. But Ainley was once the name of a whole district, stretching across the steep hillside from Elland. According to expert George Redmonds this area gave rise to the surname Ainley.
The area took in places like Fixby, Lindley and Knowles.
The place and the surname have taken on different forms over the centuries. A thousand years ago it was written as Auundeleia which gives a clue to its origins.
The Old English word ‘leah’  means ‘a clearing in a wood’ and there is still wood-land clinging to the steep hillside known as the Ainleys.  One theory regarding the first element is that it was originally an Old Norse personal name best interpreted as ‘Agwind’. The meaning of the place-name would, therefore, be Agwind’s clearing.
The Wakefield Manor Court Rolls (1297-1316) tell us some interesting tales involving the Ainley family and the Toothills of Rastrick. It is recorded that in 1297 William de Avenley was fined 3d for allowing an animal to escape; in 1314 John de Avenley fined 12d for blocking up a pathway within the bounds of Barkisland and a year later Richard de Avenley drew blood from Thomas de Tothill.  In 1316 Richard son of Thomas de Aunley sued Thomas de Tothulle for trespass. The feud appears to have gone on for several years – hope they’ve made up by now!

ALDERSON
Aldersons have lived in Swaledale and areas to the north. There is even an Alderson Family History Society with around 5,000 members. It’s a little unclear how the surname started but it is possible that an Old English first name, Ealdhere (meaning ‘old army’), is the origin. The name Alderson has been uncovered in Lancashire in the 13th century while in February 1545 Gabrell Alderson married Agnes Garnet in Eaglescliffe, Durham. One early recorded spelling of the family name is thought to be that of Richard Aldersson, dated March 10, 1540, a christening witness, at Dewsbury.

ARMITAGE
Although Armitage is a nationwide name it is most popular in the Huddersfield area. It is derived from the word hermitage and was probably originally given to someone who came from near a hermitage, or a place of learning, or an extinct place bearing the name. Early Yorkshire examples of the surname include:  Willelmus del Ermytache (1379) and John de Armitage (Sheffield, 1423). But most of today’s Armitages can be traced back to a family living at Armitage Bridge, near Huddersfield, way back in the fourteenth century.

ARMITSTEAD
Otley cyclist Lizzie Armitstead brought her Yorkshire surname to national prominence when she won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. The name appears to have started in the Giggleswick area where the place-name can still be found in house and farm titles.
There are several variant spellings of the surname, such as Ermystead, Armstead and Armistead, all of which mean ‘home of the hermit’. The ‘hermit’ referred to would probably originally been a person who lived somewhere isolated – even in a cave of which there are plenty in the limestone area of Craven.
Laurence de Armitstead and John de Armitstead were mentioned in the 1379 poll tax rolls for Giggleswick and their descendants went on to become landowners and major yeoman families around the district where the name is still popular.
Several Armitsteads went on to become clergymen, while one branch, involved in the flax trade,  settled in Riga, Latvia. George Armitstead (1847-1912) was Mayor of Riga and a statue of him and his wife can be seen in a park there. His brother James founded a hospital in Riga which still bears his name. The only Armitstead peer – Baron George of Castlehill (1824-1915) – was born in Riga but settled in Dundee where he became an MP. He was, however (or should that be ‘of course’ when talking about a politician), the subject of a scandal involving the daughter of a Scottish laird.

ASKEY
Hello playmates! Before your very eyes … let me explain the meaning of former radio and screen star Arthur Askey’s surname. Although Arthur was a Liverpudlian, it’s doubtful that his surname sprang from that area. There are a few theories as to the name’s origin, one being that a branch started when families took on their village name of Aiskew in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The place-name was written as Echescol, meaning ‘oak wood’, in the Domesday Book but over time, like the surname, the spelling has changed many times. Variations include Haskew, Ascough, Ayscough, Askie, Haskey, Askew and others.
There may have been other similarly-named places around the country, too. Aske, near Richmond, cannot be ruled out as a candidate either.
Another possibility regarding the name’s origin is that it is a shortened or Anglicised variation of the Gaelic name McAskey (McAskie, McCaskey and several other variations). It is believed that this name started in the Galloway region, it’s translation meaning ‘son of Ascaidh’, a former personal name. This derives from the Old Norse personal name ‘Asketill’, which means ‘ cauldron of the gods’ and has formed the basis of many other surnames such as McCaskill and Gaskill.
The 1881 England and Wales census recorded 706 people with the Askey surname. Today, although there are still many Askeys registered in the York region, the largest concentration can be found in the potteries region of the Midlands.
I thank you (pronounced, of course, as “Ay-Thang-Yaw”).

ASQUITH
Herbert Asquith was a proud Yorkshireman, born in Morley, who became the country’s prime minister from 1908 to 1916. And his unusual surname – only around 50 people in every million have it – is of good White Rose stock, too. Although the spelling has been changed down the years, his ancient forebears would have originally come from Askwith, near Otley. Although the name has now spread around the UK, the greatest concentration of the name is around the Wakefield area. Askwith means ‘ash wood’ in the Old Norse language.

ATHA/ATHEY
Atha is now predominantly a Yorkshire name with the largest concentration in the 1881 census to be found in the Leeds postal area. By 2000 Harrogate became the top region for housing the Atha clan.
There are a few major theories about how the surname came about. One has it of Anglo-Saxon origin, an amalgamation of two Old English (pre-seventh century) words ‘aet’ which just means ‘at’ and ‘hey’, meaning enclosure — so the original bearer of the name would have been identified as ‘the person living at the enclosure’. There are several variant spellings of the name such as Athey – as the case with former Yorkshire cricketer Bill Athey – Atty and Athy.
Another possible origin is that Atha was once a personal name, probably Gaelic, which was often recorded in the Welsh border regions during the fourteenth century.
Some experts claim that the names Athey and Athy are derived from the Irish native Gaelic ‘Atoi Sept’ who were one of the main medieval ’Tribes of Galway’. These families were mostly of Norman descent but became integrated into Gaelic society having settled in County Kildare from the mid 1300s. The town of Athy can be found there.
With such a wide range of spellings of the surname it is impossible to be more exact about its origin.

AVEYARD
It is generally thought that Aveyard, a good Yorkshire surname, stems from a place-name probably a minor place somewhere in the county which may no longer exist. The name derives from the Old English, pre seventh-century personal name Afa plus geard, an enclosure. The surname appears in Mirfield parish records in the 1560s alongside another spelling: Aviard. Sometimes those writing the registers – and even the surname holders themselves – did not know correct spellings and also had trouble understanding local accents. There is even a theory that Aveyard could actually have been a variant of the old first name, Everard, which was used as a surname in Yorkshire as early as the 1300s. The Bradford postal district contains more Aveyards than any other place in the world.

AYCKBOURN
Alan Ayckbourn has been associated with Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph’s theatre for so long you’d be forgiven for thinking that he is Yorkshire born and bred. He was actually born in Hampstead, London, in 1939 and didn’t arrive on Yorkshire’s coast until the 1950s. His surname is interesting and rare.
Way back in Alan’s family history the name was Eichbaum. In the late 1600s his ancestors were living in Westfalen, Germany. One of them moved across to Britain during the second half of the 18th century when the surname became more Anglicised – originally Ayckbowm and eventually Ayckbourn (with or without the c). The root of the name remains the same, however, and a German speaker would probably still recognise its original meaning: ‘oak tree’.
There are many examples of foreign surnames being translated into English versions, whether this be for personal reasons or just for ease of communication. At least one English person called Taylor has tracked his ancestors back to the continent to discover that an ancestor’s surname was Schneider – the German equivalent of Taylor.

BAIRSTOW
Bairstow is a solid Yorkshire name and it’s good to know it is being continued in the county’s cricket team, with young Jonny Bairstow taking over the wicketkeeping mantle from his late father David. Bairstow – and many similar sounding surnames – started as a place-name and was taken up in the Middles Ages by the people who lived there. The Yorkshire version probably started from an ancient field name or farmstead around Beacon Hill, Shibden, near Halifax. One of the first written versions of the name appears in the Wakefield Court Rolls of 1277 with a mention of Ralph de Bayrestowe. The name means either ‘a place where berries grow’ or ‘a bare/barren place’. In the 1880s Halifax was the top area in the country for the surname but a hundred years later Bradford held the most Bairstows.

BALMER
There could be several origins for the name Balmer with a general north-south split. Often, names ending -er indicate an occupation – such as carpenter or weaver. A balmer was once someone who used or sold aromatic ointments, usually for preserving, the name stemming from an Old French word ‘baulmier’. The term was probably brought over here by the Normans or early traders from the continent.
In the north, however, there are also several place-names which use the word ‘balm’ as this in Gaelic meant ‘town’ and even ‘cave’ – there’s a small place in the north-west called Balmire, for example – and several more in Scotland and Ireland. By the 1700s the surname was recorded in Cumberland and Lancashire, the Cleveland area of North Yorkshire, County Durham and also in the eastern Scottish borders and Ulster.
Today In Great Britain it is estimated there are around 1,600 families with the surname Balmer and it is the 6,047th most common name. The biggest concentration is to be found in Surrey, where it was recorded in the 1400s, and there is also a place called Balmer in East Sussex.

BANNISTER
Many people presume the surname Bannister must derive from the word we have for that structure we use to help our creaking bodies up the stairs. But the surname has nothing to do with that – the word banister we use today wasn’t around before the seventeenth century.
‘Banastre’ is in fact an Anglo-Norman term for a basket, and the original bearers of the name would have been basketmakers –  a very popular occupation around the time when surnames first became necessary.
In the 1841 census around two-thirds – approximately 2,800 – of those registered with the surname Bannister (or similar) lived in Yorkshire. But it is a country-wide name and early written records can be found in the twelfth century in Cheshire, Lincolnshire and elsewhere.
Sir Adam Banastre was a landowner in the parish of Standish, over the border in Lancashire, who led a local uprising, known as Banastre’s rebellion, in 1315.  It failed and Sir Adam lost his head. Bannisters were then to be found in Barnoldswick and east Lancashire, these probably being related to current landowners in the area with the surname.
The famous four-minute-miler Roger Bannister can trace his ancestry back to the Trawden area
as can Billy Bannister a former Burnley footballer who also played for England at the turn of the twentieth century.

BARKER
The surname Barker, you’ll not be surprised to learn, has nothing to do with dogs. A barker in medieval Britain was someone who used the bark of trees to tan leather. The occupational term barker was used more in the north, while down south tanner was more common, and even now the surname Tanner is found more around the Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucester areas than elsewhere. The highest concentration of Barkers can be found in North Yorkshire. Barker is said to be the 136th most common surname in Great Britain.

BARLOW
I was surprised to read about Take That singer/songwriter Gary Barlow being made ‘honorary Yorkshireman’. Surprised firstly because I didn’t know folk could be awarded such an honour, and secondly because Barlow is such a Lancastrian name.
However, it’s a fact that there are many Barlows living in Yorkshire because the main origin of the name – a place called Barlow – is only just over the border. The first written recording of the surname is thought to be that of Thomas de Barlowe in the Lancashire assize records of 1260. The Barlows include an ancient knightly family of Barlow Hall, near Manchester, who trace their pedigree back to the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).
Today Barlow is thought to be the 6,937th most common in the world with around 78,000 bearing the name and Bolton having the biggest concentration.
There is also a place in Derbyshire from where a branch of the surname sprung, and there is a glimmer of hope for Yorkshire Barlows. A place called Barlow, a small chapelry in the parish of Brayton, exists three miles from Selby. Back in 1379, a ‘Johannes de Berlowe’ from here appears in the Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire, so it is quite possible a White Rose branch sprung from his family.
His hamlet is recorded as ‘Berlai’ in the Domesday Book of 1086, and derives from the Olde English (pre seventh century) ‘bere’ meaning barley, plus ‘leag’, a clearing. Barlow in Lancashire, appears as ‘Berlawe’ in early manuscripts and stems from Olde English ‘bere’ and ‘hlaw’, a hill; hence, ‘barley hill’. The Derbyshire village was ‘Barleie’ in the Domesday Book, with ‘bar’, a boar, plus ‘leie’, a clearing in a wood.
Had Gary Barlow been from the Yorkshire branch I wonder if he would have named the group ‘Teck That, Pal’?

BAYLISS
The surname Bayliss (and variant spellings) isn’t too common in Yorkshire – the majority of the families are to be found in Worcestershire – but it was recorded in the county as far back as 1547. In the register of the freemen of York there’s a Thomas Baillis. The name derives from an ancient word baili – the old job title for someone who was a local official who perhaps worked for the county or court, similar to our modern bailiff.
There is also an old French word baillis which means the same and this could have led to the name being prevalent in the southern counties as the Normans spread their language northwards.
The name is particularly strong around the Welsh border as the baili would have worked for the English lords who had taken over Welsh territories in the Middle Ages.  In those days, when surnames became more necessary many people took on the title of their job… such as John the Carter, David the Baker etc. It’s a good thing we don’t have to do that today… not sure what we’d call Bert the Sewage-worker.

BELL
No doubt you’ll come across a few bells this Christmas – whether they be ringing out from your local church, appearing on a card, or being downed, as in a glass or two of the famous whisky of that name.
You’d think a simple four-letter surname like Bell, with its perfectly obvious link with those great big noisy things in the church tower, would be simple to explain.
Think again, however, because one surname researcher has discovered sixty different spellings of the name – from Bel to Baloil plus several Gaelic variations – and there is a vast range of possible origins too.
It is generally thought that the surname originated in Scotland and northern England. In fact, the vast majority of people with surname can be found to the north of a line drawn from the mouth of the Mersey across to the Wash.
Some experts believe the name could have started as a nickname from the Old French words beu or bel, meaning ‘handsome’. There was also, in medieval times, a personal name ‘Bel’ which was commonly used. Another possible origin is that the name was derived from the Middle English  word ‘belle’, denoting either an occupation, a bell-ringer or  bell-maker, or even a location, ie someone who lived by a bell tower.
For centuries the Bell clan from Scotland were unwelcome visitors to the border regions as they raided the northern English counties for anything they could lay their hands on. Eventually, many Bell families settled in Yorkshire, Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland – and hopefully they will remain peaceful over Christmas.

BENDELOW
Mrs Ann Jones of Wisbech writes to ask if we know the origin of her maiden name, Bendelow. Well it’s certainly a Yorkshire name – back in the 1800s very few people bearing the name lived outside the county and even today the biggest concentration is around the Harrogate area.
The original bearers of the name would have come from a place called Bendelow – the literal translation meaning ‘the place of bent-grass’ (this is the name of a species of tough grass and doesn’t relate to the normal meaning of ‘bent’).
There could have once been a small settlement or field name so called in the area during medieval times but more glamorously it could stem from someone who moved over from the continent. There is a place called Benteloo (same meaning) in what is now The Netherlands – perhaps an early visitor or even a Viking invader came over and settled here, and his name became more ‘Anglified’ as the centuries went by?
Other written versions of the name include Bendlowes, Bendlous and Bendlow. To show how surname spelling have altered, a Robert Bendelow was christened on June 20th 1817 at Well, in Yorkshire yet a previous recorded spelling of his family name is shown to be Bentlowe.

BIRD
Think of the surname Bird and Yorkshire’s famous cricketing son, Dickie, immediately springs to mind. And although there’s a fair old sprinkling of people with the surname in the county – and it was recorded in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire as far back as 1193 – it is now essentially a name based in the Midlands and East Anglia.
It was originally given as as a nickname to one thought to bear a resemblance to a bird. This may have been from bright dress, or bright eyed and active, or perhaps to some one with a beautiful singing voice. Sometimes the surname Bird may have been given as an occupational name to a bird catcher, and as such was a shortened form of the name Birdclever, recorded in the 1427 Calverley Charters of Yorkshire.

BLACK
Calling people names because of the way they look could get you in trouble today, but some 700-800 years ago it was considered normal. In villages where there might have been dozens of people called John, they would have been distinguished one from another by describing their looks — perhaps John White, Grey or Brown etc, and these eventually became their surnames.
Sometimes the name might relate to a person’s complexion or the colour of their hair. It is even known to have been related to the dominant colour of the clothes a person was associated with.
Blunt is another descriptive surname but not as we understand the word to mean today, for ‘blunt’ is an old Anglo-Norman French word meaning blonde.
Don’t worry if your name is Green — your ancestors didn’t have oddly shaded skin or hair – they were probably so called because they lived near the village green. The surname Black is even more misleading as it is not possible to say from which Old English word the name is derived… ‘blaec’ or ‘blac’. The former meant the dark colour; the latter meant almost the opposite: ‘pale’ (think of our current word ‘bleak’).
Thankfully, there weren’t that many words around to describe colours back in the thirteenth century, therefore we don’t have people called ‘muted mocha’, ‘fresh mountain dew’ or ‘urban obsession’ — just three modern colours to be found at the DIY store.

BLENKINSOP
Recorded as Blenkinsop, Blenkinsopp, and Blenkinship, this is an English surname. It is locational from Blenkinsopp, a village in the county of Northumberland. The meaning is obscure, although it is thought to mean Blenkyn’s hill, from an early personal name and “copp”, a hill top. Locational surnames are nearly always “from” names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original village to move somewhere else. In so doing they took, or were given, as their surname the name of their original village. Spelling over the centuries being at best erratic and local dialects very thick, often lead to the creation of “sounds like” spellings. This surname however has largely retained its original spelling, perhaps because it was so unique in its form. The early recordings taken from surviving church registers include Thomas Blenkinsop, christened at the church of St. John’s Deansgate, Manchester, on June 16th 1700, and Thomas Blenkinship who married Isabella Ostel at Manchester Cathedral on December 6th 1873. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Blenkinsopp. He is given as being a Freeman of the city of York, in 1553.

BOLINGBROKE BOLLING
Down Your Way reader Dorothy Holmes, of Sutton-in-Craven, has a new name in her family tree following the marriage of a granddaughter to a Bolinbroke. She wonders if through this famous ancient name her line could now be linked to Henry Bolingbroke (King Henry IV) who laid claim to the English crown in 1399. Without serious genealogical research it is not possible to confirm or deny a relationship to the king who reigned until 1413. Henry was born in Bolinbroke in 1367, but then again so were many more people who spread far and wide in search of work. Today there are two places with the name – in Lincolnshire and Surrey, the former being the most likely source of the surname.
Some experts say the place-name means ‘the fen (broc) of the Bulla people’, an Old English tribe who probably flourished during the Dark Ages.
There’s no significant evidence of bearers of the surname settling in Yorkshire, with the biggest concentration today being in Norfolk. However, the Bolling surname is much more prevalent in the White Rose county than anywhere else.
There’s a great deal of speculation about the origin of the Bolling name, including that it was a nickname for someone with close-cropped hair or a large head, from the Middle English word bolling, meaning pollard. Also, in medieval England a heavy drinker was often called a bolling. There are several other possibilities, including that Bolling may be a corruption of Bowling, the place-name in Bradford where there is Bolling Hall. The Manor of Bolling (Bollinc) is mentioned in Domesday Book. By 1316 it was owned by William Bolling, and his family owned the estate until the late fifteenth century.

BOOTH
Booth is a northern name with the biggest concentration of those with the name being in the Huddersfield area. It was originally given as a name for someone who lived in a small hut or bothy – especially temporary accommodation such as that used by a cowman or shepherd. It stems from the Middle English word both(e) but the word is of Scandinavian origin which is why it is more common in northern England.

BOYCOTT
That famous cricketing son of Yorkshire, (Sir) Geoffrey Boycott, was born in the mining village of Fitzwilliam, near Wakefield, the eldest of three sons of Jane and Thomas Wilfred Boycott. But the father of the county’s celebrated batsman – and his surname – are both from Shropshire. Thomas Wilfred was a Shropshire colliery worker who sought work in the Yorkshire coalfield, while the name stems from a place in the county that originally meant ‘Boia’s cot’ – the place of ‘Boia’ (a seventh-century term of endearment for a young man).
There is also a place called Boycott (sometimes recorded as Boycote) in Berkshire but the largest concentration of the surname has centred around Telford in Shropshire, with a growing population in the Wakefield area.
However, if you were starting to worry about Geoffrey’s Yorkshireness you need not fear, as his mother was of sound Yorkshire stock. Her maiden name was Speight – a surname rarely found outside the boundary of Broad Acres.
Its origins lie with the Old English and Saxon word ‘Speoht’ an ancient name for a woodpecker – even today the German and Dutch word for woodpecker is ‘specht’. Originally it would have been given as a nickname to someone whose personal characteristics, or even the way they dressed,  were believed to match the animal or bird or even fish in question. In this case it could also have been given to a great chatterer, or one who talked a great deal… (especially when asked for an opinion on cricket?)
Early recordings of the name include John Speght of Wakefield in 1313 and Matilda Speght listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379.
Perhaps even more famous than Yorkshire’s own bearer of the name is Captain Charles Boycott (1832-1897). While acting as land agent to the earl of Erne in County Mayo, he was ‘socially excommunicated’ for his refusal to bow to the growing power of the Land League in Ireland. As a result his name became the verb we use today – ‘to boycott’.

BRADDY/BRADY/BRODIE
If you know someone called Brady, Brodie or Braddy – or one of many other spellings of the name – you can say that one of their ancestors was thieving and dishonest without fear of being sued … but trying this is not recommended.
There are several theories surrounding the name’s origin, one being that it stems from the Irish term ‘brádach’, meaning thieving or dishonest, though in the family’s defence its original sense could also have denoted ‘spirited’. The Brady bunch were a powerful clan in Ireland, their chief holding control over a large territory lying to the east of Cavan from pre thirteenth century. In Scotland Brady families migrated to Lanarkshire and Angus. In England most ended up in Lancashire, Durham and Yorkshire.
Another, less likely origin for the name suggests it being a nickname given to a person with excellent eyesight. This is reckoned to come from the pre seventh-century term ‘brad-eage’, meaning broad eye.
Another idea is that it derives from a lost place known as ‘Broad isle’, while a fourth theory suggests it may be topographical for a dweller by woodland cleared for agriculture from the ancient term ‘brad gehaeg’. With Irish accents and language being difficult for many early scribes to translate, and with several different possible name origins, it is no wonder we encounter so many different spellings today.
In the 1841 census for England, there were around 18,000 people registered with the Brady/Brodie/Braddy spellings but only around a dozen with the Braddy spelling.

BRISTOW
A reader asks about the name Bristow – but this alas is unlikely to have originated in Yorkshire. It’s more likely the first bearers of the name travelled from what we now know as Bristol but which was once ‘Brycgstow’ – meaning a place of assembly by the bridge. Most early migrants from Bristol headed east for work in London. But at least one strand saw sense and headed for Yorkshire instead.

BRONTE
There’s been much speculation over the surname Brontë. But there’s no doubt it started with Patrick Brunty, the Irish-born father of the famous Yorkshire novelists. Patrick was a Brunty until he entered St John’s College, Cambridge in 1802. Whether he took on the revised surname because the registrar couldn’t understand his thick Irish accent or whether he fancied something a little more impressive is not clear. He would have been aware of a mythological Greek god Bronte, meaning ‘thunder’, and also of the fact that Lord Nelson had been made Duke of Bronte in Sicily in 1799.
The later addition of an accent on the e is even more baffling, as this has also been recorded over the years as a macron, a tilde and an umlaut. Perhaps this addition was initially either another flight of fancy by Patrick or a hint to others as to how he wanted the surname pronounced.
What is certain, however, is that his original surname of Brunty (also recorded as Prunty) is an anglicised version of the Gaelic given name Proinntigh.

BROOKSBANK
Brooksbank is an ancient Yorkshire name and a prime example of how surnames developed in the fourteenth century. It is recorded that back in 1371 a chap called Thomas Bythebrokesbank of Warley was paid to help with the rebuilding work at Erringden Park, near Halifax. In the Poll Tax Records of 1377 he was down as Thomas By-the-brokes-bancke of Elland, but just two years later the same man was recorded as Thomas de Brokesbank when employed to supervise the removal of Warley corn mill and rebuild it at Luddenden. In the next Poll Tax he was registered as Thomas Brokesbank.
Over the centuries the family, besides taking on the more modern spelling of ‘brook’, spread throughout Calderdale and into Airedale (where they also became connected with my family). There is also a branch further east with the Brooksbank Baronetcy of Helaugh Manor in honour of Edward Brooksbank, a former Deputy Lieutenant for the West Riding. The family has royal connections – Jack Christopher Stamp Brooksbank (b1986), was reported last year as being engaged to Princess Eugenie, the Queen’s granddaughter. The pair are actually distantly related as Eugenie’s mother, Sarah, Duchess of York, is the great-great-granddaughter of Lady Julia Coke, the daughter of Jack’s great-great-grandfather Thomas Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester (are you still with me?).
Brooksbank school in Elland was founded by one of the clan 300 years ago. Joseph Brooksbank grew up in Elland but left to find his fortune in London and establish the family among the country’s aristocracy. One of his offspring, Stamp Brooksbank (1694–1756) was Governor of the Bank of England 1741-43 and represented Colchester as an MP. He was the one who acquired Healaugh Manor.
Sir Gilbert Brooksbank was a priest stemming from those early Warley families who lived at Bank House. He was murdered in a skirmish with Sir Richard Tempest’s men in 1536, and another member was killed in a duel.
Today, they have calmed down a little, and the less affluent Brooksbanks are mainly concentrated around the BD postcode area.

BROWN
Calling people names because of the way they look could get you in trouble today, but some 700-800 years ago it was considered normal. In villages where there might have been dozens of people called John, they would have been distinguished one from another by describing their looks — perhaps John White, Grey or Brown etc, and these eventually became their surnames.
Sometimes the name might relate to a person’s complexion or the colour of their hair. It is even known to have been related to the dominant colour of the clothes a person was associated with.
Blunt is another descriptive surname but not as we understand the word to mean today, for ‘blunt’ is an old Anglo-Norman French word meaning blonde.
Don’t worry if your name is Green — your ancestors didn’t have oddly shaded skin or hair – they were probably so called because they lived near the village green. The surname Black is even more misleading as it is not possible to say from which Old English word the name is derived… ‘blaec’ or ‘blac’. The former meant the dark colour; the latter meant almost the opposite: ‘pale’ (think of our current word ‘bleak’).
Thankfully, there weren’t that many words around to describe colours back in the thirteenth century, therefore we don’t have people called ‘muted mocha’, ‘fresh mountain dew’ or ‘urban obsession’ — just three modern colours to be found at the DIY store.

CAPSTICK
The 1841 census records fewer than a hundred families with the surname Capstick, most of them being found in north-west Yorkshire, eastern parts of Lancashire and the south-west of Westmorland. There were a few others spread around the country and several with slightly different spellings of the name, such as Copestake, Copestick and Capstack – the variations stemming from regional accents and the way early scribes wrote the name in official documents.
The name is derived from a French word ‘coupe’ meaning ‘cut’ and an Old English word ‘sticca’, meaning stake. So the original bearer of the surname would have been a stake or stick cutter by trade. The popular name Cooper comes from the same French word and was given to someone who cut or shaped wood, such as a barrel maker.
The first recorded spelling of the surname is thought to be that of Geoffrey Coupstak, dated 1295 in the Register of the Freemen of the city of York. One Henry Coupestack was recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire (1301), and John Copestake (1474) in the Register of the Freemen of the city of York.
The majority of today’s Capsticks can still be found across the northern belt of Yorkshire and Lancashire but the surname has spread around the world, especially in America where several Capstick families in the nineteenth century left Liverpool in search of a better way of life on the other side of the Atlantic.

CLEGG
Foggy, Compo and Clegg… names of Last of the Summer Wine TV characters now written into Holmfirth folklore, but just where does the name Clegg come from? Clegg is actually a place-name called after an Old Norse word, kleggi, meaning haystack. There may originally have been more than one place with the name but the most likely location is in east Lancashire. Many early Cleggs soon saw the light and moved into Yorkshire and are recorded here as early as the 14th century. Clegg emerged as an influential family in Lancashire, flourishing from their original family seat at Clegg Hall, just outside what is now Rochdale. Nowadays the biggest concentration of Cleggs is to be found around the old Yorkshire/Lancashire border at Oldham… just a few miles from Holmfirth.

CLOUGH
‘Cloh’ is an Old English word – used mainly prior to the seventh century – for a narrow ravine or valley, usually having steep sides and forming the bed of a stream. It gave rise to many a place-name and later surnames, the main one being Clough which would have originally been given to someone who lived near a ‘cloh’.
One of the most common and once uniquely Yorkshire surnames using the word is Barraclough (and variants such as Barrowclough and Barrowcliffe). At one time almost all those called Barraclough lived in the Halifax area but the clan has spread all around the world, with one branch being early settlers in America.
The first recorded written spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Peter del Baricloughe, which was dated 1315 in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield.
It is thought the original site for the place Barrowclough was near Shibden where you can still find Barrowclough Lane. The first section of the name probably stems from another Old English word ‘bearu’ which means a small wood or grove in today’s language.
The Pennine landscape features numerous ‘clohs’ and that is why there are more families called Clough, Barraclough and Fairclough to be found either side of the Pennine chain than anywhere else in the country.

CORBETT
While the Barker half of the Two Ronnies duo seems to have come from humble origins (see above), the same cannot be said for the Corbett half. Shropshire has been the principal home for the Corbett clan – a common name there since the thirteenth century. According to Debrett’s, one ‘Corbet’ was a noble Norman who arrived on our shores with William the Conqueror. The family went on to hold lands in Scotland too, where the surname is still popular. Corbet, from which the surname is derived, is a French word for a little raven or crow. The first bearer of the name may have resembled the bird either through his ferocity or his looks.

CRAVEN
Craven is very much a Yorkshire name, given to people who originally came from the district of that name around Skipton and the southern edge of the Dales. The area was called ‘Crave’ as far back as the Domesday book in 1086. There’s been some doubt about the exact meaning of the name but most scholars think it comes from an old word ‘craf’ which means garlic. There has always been a profusion of wild garlic, of the allium family, growing in the region and the pungent smell in late spring and early summer would certainly have made an impression on early visitors.
The first recorded spelling of the family name is probably that of Paulinus de Cravene in 1284, recorded as a Freeman of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward I. It was also noted in the latter half of the thirteenth century when Agnes de Craven and Johannes de Craven, appear in the Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire (1372).
The Cravens moved in search of work into the more populated and industrialised areas as the centuries went by and now the majority can be found in the Bradford and Leeds areas.

CRAZY
There are some Crazy surnames. Before our erudite editor removes the capital C from the last sentence let me explain that I do mean Crazy the surname. It is estimated that approxiamately 3,200 Britons who share the name and that around five per cent of them live in the Leeds area.
I checked in the 1911 census to see if I could find a Crazy family living in Yorkshire and sure enough there is a Jonathan Edward Crazy aged 41 living with his wife and three children in Gilling West, just a few miles north of Richmond. Whether this was a mispelling by the recorder or the family’s proper name I can’t tell.
There will be some people who have changed their surname by deed poll to Crazy but for most it will probably be a corruption of the more common name Creasey (found mainly in Suffolk). Down the years the name has been written in several forms including  Crasey, Creissi, Cressy and Creci(y). It is thought the original bearers may have come from Crecy in Seine-Inferieure, France, which was a famous battle ground during the Hundred Years War.
There is also an Old English word, creas, which means elegant, and some believe the name could have been given originally as a nickname to someone who dressed in a fine and elegant manner.

CROSBY
This festive period, while you are listening endlessly to Bing Crosby Dreaming of his white Christmas you might like to contemplate the fact that the crooner’s Crosby ancestors came from Yorkshire. The Crosby surname is more popular in Yorkshire than in any other county, with the biggest concentration today living around the York region.
Bing – real name Harry Lillis Crosby – lived from 1903 to 1977 but his ancestors were one of the earliest settlers in New England, sailing there in the Susan & Ellen in 1635. The Rev Simon Crosby, his wife Ann and eight-week-old son Thomas made that tortuous journey which started from his place of birth, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor in the East Riding.
They were a local Puritan family, and American genealogists, perhaps keen to attach some romance to their hero, claim Bing’s line stretches back from those Yorkshire roots through sheriffs of London and on to early landowning Danish officers who came over with the Norsemen a thousand years ago.
I’m not saying they are wrong – I haven’t seen their evidence – but they do seem to be assuming that the original Crosby family originated from the best-known town called Crosby on the west coast near Merseyside.
The place-name Crosby is certainly a Norse name, meaning ‘settlement at the cross’, but there are a lot more places bearing that name around the our country – including, perhaps most importantly in this case, one close to Rievaulx Abbey, near Helmsley. Today it is classed as a grange of the abbey but back in the time when surnames were being deemed necessary life there would have been very different.
Perhaps Bing was dreaming of a white rose Christmas?

DARNTON
Darnton is a rare surname which has had researchers scratching their heads for a long time. It is definitely a name stemming from the north-east of Yorkshire which has led some to believe that at some point during early recording of surnames it may have been a shortened form of ‘Darlington’. One expert has also suggested Darnton is a shortened version of Darrington, another Yorkshire town. There could quite well have been a medieval scribe who on asking a local person where he came from, assumed the person as saying ‘Dar’n’ton’.
It may sound incredible nowadays but you have to remember that very few people could read or write several hundred years ago when surnames began, and scribes had great difficulty understanding local accents.
Or there could once have been a small hamlet or farmstead called Darnton, and today there are several place-names – and even a river – stemming from the Old English word ‘dearne’, which means ‘water’. So originally a place called ‘dearne-tun’ would have meant ‘settlement by the water’. The area showing the largest number of written records since 1450 is Staindrop just north of Darlington north of the A66.
John Darnton was the thirtieth abbot of Fountains Abbey (1478-95) and was responsible for much work including the West Window, over which is a stone corbel carved as a representation (called a rebus) of the man himself. The rebus is now very badly corroded but is supposed to show a bird (a dern) holding a barrel (a ton).

DEIGHTON
There’s nothing gives away your Yorkshire roots more than having a surname which derives from a placename within the county. Two readers have written in asking about their family names of Learoyd and Deighton. The latter is a more common surname, perhaps because there are at least  three places called Deighton in Yorkshire… near Huddersfield, Northallerton and York. They all got their names from old words ‘dic’ and ‘tun’ which basically means a settlement near, or surrounded by, a ditch or dyke. Nowadays the surname is most popular around the Harrogate to York region.
Unlike Deighton, the place called Learoyd never developed into a modern-day settlement. It was probably originally just a farmstead or tiny settlement where habitation faded out or it changed name. It is very likely this place was around the Calder Valley area. In Old English, spoken before the seventh century, ‘leah’ meant wood and ‘rod’ meant clearing. Probably the first written record of the name is to be found in the Poll Tax returns for the West Riding of 1379 when Alicia Legh-rode was required to hand over money to the King. The biggest concentration of the name nowadays is around Huddersfield.

DENIAL
The interesting surname Denial is not directly to do with the word we use today but derives ultimately from the Hebrew male personal name Daniel, which means ‘God is my judge’, and was borne by one of the most important prophets in the Bible. Daniel does not appear in England before the Conquest of 1066, suggesting that it was introduced by the Normans as both a given and a surname. The Denial strand may have started somewhere in the Sheffield area as by 1881 that is where the main concentration of Denials were to be found in the country. It is thought that only around three people in a million are named Denial in the UK.

DEWHIRST/DEWHURST
Surnames don’t come much more ‘northern’ than Dewhirst/Dewhurst. A quick scan through the 1841 census returns shows that 3,346 people were registered with one version or other of the name. Of those, just 714 had the ‘i’ spelling – most of these living in Yorkshire. Only a handful of the total can be found outside the white or red rose regions.
Dewhirst was originally a place-name, probably derived from the adjective ‘dewy’ plus the Middle English word ‘hyrst’, meaning wooded hill. Fourteenth-century records indicate that this place was in an area about six miles north of Blackburn, on the river Ribble close to the ancient boundary with Yorkshire. Other name experts claim that the ‘dew’ part might stem from the male given name ‘Dewey’ or ‘Dewie’ which are old forms of David.
Many small settlements, especially in Pennine areas, disappeared when landowners made way for sheep pastures at the height of the wool trade from the fifteenth century onwards. Natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the country’s population perished, also destroyed many communities.
Early records of the name are shown to be that of Adam del Dewyhirst, which was dated 1332 in the Lay Subsidy Rolls of Lancashire, and Roger de le Dewyhurst in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey (a register of charters, title deeds etc) written around 1300.

DEXTER
Theories abound regarding the origins of the surname Dexter. It’s certainly been around a long time — right back to the days when surnames began to become more commonplace in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some Victorian name experts believed the name to be a contraction of ‘de Exeter’; others put forward the idea that the name is derived from  a Latin word dexter, in the sense of being lucky or fortunate.
This most likely source, however, is an Anglo-Saxon word, ‘dighester’. This was once an occupational name for a female dyer of cloth.
The name is most popular in the Midlands and early examples include John and Ralf Dextere in the Friary Rolls of Leicester in 1262, Robert le Digester in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire in 1275, Walter Le Dighestre of Sussex in the same year, Simon Le Dykestre of Suffolk in 1305, and Thomas Dyster in the London Rolls of the Inquisition of 1290. However, the first recorded spelling of the family name is thought to be that of Robert le Dighestre, dated 1260, in the Somerset County Registers.

DRAKE
A primary-school pal of mine was called Walter Raleigh, and later in life I befriended a Francis Drake. I’ve yet to meet a Christopher Columbus but I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere. Many of today’s Raleighs and Drakes – both fairly common names in the West Riding – will wonder whether they are related to the famous adventurers. Without detailed individual research it is impossible to confirm or deny but links are possible in both cases.
Drake, which probably derives from a nickname, possibly from dragon or the male duck, was quite widespread from the twelfth century with concentrations in Devon, Dorset, Norfolk and the West Riding by the sixteenth century.
William Drake of Shibden, near Halifax, is mentioned in 1275 documents and a Drake family was in possession of Horley Green, Northowram, from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. These Drakes were said to have come from Devon, birthplace of the famous Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596).
By the mid 1800s Drakes were to be found mainly in the Northowram area, Thornton, near Bradford, as well as in Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield.
The Raleighs are also an ancient Devon family, with the name probably stemming from a place-name in that area. There’s also always been a strong concentration of Raleighs in Yorkshire, especially in the Wakefield and Hull areas, so there may well have been a place in the county similarly named. Rawley, Rayleigh and Rawleigh are all variants. There is also a suggestion by experts that the name stems from an Irish given name (as in O’Riley). It is easy to imagine that an early scribe could translate Riley as Raleigh when listening to anyone with a thick Irish accent.
Columbus? Of the three bearers of the surname recorded in England in the 1881 British census one was born in Italy, one in Ireland, and one in Russia.

EARNSHAW
It’s many a century since eagles were regularly seen soaring over the Pennine hills. But it is possible that the distant ancestors of anyone called Earnshaw had the privilege of witnessing these magnificent birds in flight. The literal meaning of the name is ‘eagle nook or wood’ , derived from Old English words erne and halh or sceaga.
The original name would have been given to a place – probably no longer in existence, on the edge of the moors between Yorkshire and Lancashire – which was taken on as a surname during medieval times as people left their birthplace to find work elsewhere.
The first written evidence of the family name is thought to be that of Richard de Erneschaghe, which was noted  in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield in 1316.
By the nineteenth century there were more Earnshaws in the Huddersfield area than anywhere else in the country.

FAWCETT
Fawcett is a name which in its early history was found only in the north of England. In the 1800s Leeds was the area where it was more prevalent than anywhere else in the country, probably because people moved from rural regions to work in the factories. The original owners of the name would have come from a similarly-named place. There are a few possibles… in Cumberland, Lancashire and Forcett in North Yorkshire. The place-name either meant ‘bright slope’  or ‘settlement by the ford’ in the Old English language.

FAWKES
As many thousands of people around the country feel the urge this month to set fire to an effigy of a Yorkshireman it’s worth remembering that the surname Fawkes is ‘burnt’ deep into the county’s history.
Although much detail of Guy Fawkes’s life is not known, and eminent genealogists still argue about certain ‘facts’, it is generally agreed that his line can be traced back to the mid 1400s around the Otley area where one of his ancestors was heir to the Farnley estate.
Guy was born at Stonegate in York on 13 April 1570 the son of Edward Fawkes and Edith Blake. His father died when he was only eight and Edith remarried a catholic – and we all know what his consequent upbringing led to.
There are still many Fawkes families living in Yorkshire and elswhere in the UK – and there is a great variation in the spelling of the name, such as Faulks, Faulkes, Foulks, Foulkes and more.
They all stem from the same source, probably brought over as a first name by the Normans in 1066.
The name derives from Faulques which itself comes from an early Germanic given name, ‘Falco’, meaning falcon. This name would originally have been given as a nickname for a person thought to resemble a falcon in some way, either by appearance or action.

FAWTHROP
If you search through the 1841 Census for England you’ll find only 198 people with the name Fawthrop. Of those, less than a dozen lived outside Yorkshire… and most of those few resided just over the border in Lancashire. The vast majority lived in the Halifax area and this for genealogists usually means that those whose surname is spelled as Fawthrop all sprang from a single family. At some stage during the history of the name one scribe wrote down Fawthrop and the spelling stuck with this particular branch.
There are records for at least seven different spellings of the name and there are probably even more stretching back to medieval times. It would originally have been a place-name and like most locational surnames, the further it travelled from its original ‘home’, the more unusual the spelling became. Medieval dialect was much stronger and peculiar to a specific area than it is today – even within the same county, – and spelling was certainly not universal.
Written records for various spellings of the name can be tracked in Yorkshire back to the mid 1500s but there is no record of the place-name (which could have originally meant ‘isolated farmstead’). The place could now have vanished, although there is a Felthorpe in Norfolk – it is not totally beyond the realms of possibility that someone travelled up from there in the 1500s and a scribe in Yorkshire who couldn’t quite understand a thick Broads accent wrote down Fawthrop.

FEATHER
Many a surname expert has pondered long and hard over the origin of Feather. Nationwide it’s an uncommon name with only around 1500 people with the surname being mentioned in the 1881 UK census. Most of them remain in Yorkshire, with the largest congregation being around the Keighley-Haworth region.
Down the years some of those who study surnames have come up with the obvious conclusion that the original bearer of the name was someone who dealt with feathers, such as arrowmakers, quill makers, quiltmakers etc. The trade of feather mongers was recorded from the thirteenth century. It has also been suggested that it was originally given as a nickname for someone who was said to be as ‘light as a feather’.
There is also an idea that the name is a corruption of an old Anglo-Scandinavian personal name of Feador, which anyone who studies northern dialects will also recognise as ‘fadder’, meaning ‘father’.
No one really knows the true origin as our language and pronunciation has changed so much down the centuries… take for example the name Featherstone – it has nothing to do with feathers. In Old English the word would have been ‘fetherstan’, a northern form of feower (four) and stan (stone), this being a description of a prehistoric structure which comprised three standing stones capped by a fourth as a lid.

GAUKRODGER
Gaukrodger is a fascinating Yorkshire name – and rarely found outside the county. In fact, the 1911 Census for England lists only 233 people with the name. It originated in the Sowerby area of Halifax and has been recorded there since the 1400s.
Contrary to what it may claim on the internet or in some reference books the surname does not stem from some ungainly chap nicknamed ‘Gawky Rodger’. Yes, gawky is an old word meaning clumsy or awkward, and even from my youth I recall children being called ‘gawky-handed’ – an old West Riding term for being left-handed (probably stemming from the French word for left, ‘gauche’.
Gawkro(d)ger (and several more different spellings) was initially a place-name. Close to Sowerby you’ll still find  farmsteads called Upper and Lower Gaukroger.
The ‘rodger’ part of the name is a derivation of ‘roche(r)’ – a description you’ll find all over the Pennines, generally referring to ‘rocks’. ‘Gauk’ probably stems from an Old Norse word for ‘cuckoo’, but there is also a Norse first name ’Gauki’. Other Yorkshire place-names, such as Gawthorpe, were once ‘Gauki’s hamlet’.
The biggest clue to the name’s origin is through ancient Yorkshire court rolls. In 1402 John de Gawkrocher appears after being fined for a minor misdemeanour in the manor woodlands – the ‘de’ bit meaning he was from the place.
An eminent genealogist called George Redmonds proved that not all those born with the strange name wanted to keep it, and traced evidence of name-changing to amongst others: Barker, Platts, Brigg, Rodgers, Gawke and even Cockrobin – a nightmare for anyone wanting to trace a family tree.

GELDART/GELDARD
Geldart has the air of a foreign name about it – but it is firmly entrenched in Yorkshire. I have a Geldart branch in my own family tree dating back to the 1630s. The family lived on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border near Bentham. The name has the same origin as similar ones such as Geldard, Gelderd and Gelder – usually given to someone who looked after gelded horses. The Old Norse word for sterile was ‘gelda’, and the first written record of the name dates back to 1284 in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield. Today, the biggest concentrations of the name can be found in the Bradford and Harrogate postal areas.

GLEWE
If you’ll pardon the awful pun, Glewe is a name that has stuck around Yorkshire for centuries. Some experts claim that the name originated in the county but that’s difficult to prove. It is generally agreed that the name is derived from the Old English (pre-seventh century) word ‘gleaw’, which meant cautious, prudent or wise (I thought all Yorkshiremen and women had those qualities?). There is also a theory that the name stems from another old word which has developed into our modern word ‘glee’, and would have been given to a person of a joyous disposition (again, surely that’s all Yorkshire folk isn’t it?).
So originally, as was common in medieval England, the name would have first been given as a nickname which then developed into a first name and later a surname.
A Radulfus filius Gleu is mentioned in Yorkshire records from 1219, and a Peter Glew appears in the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire, dated 1301. The 1379 Poll Tax Returns Records of Yorkshire show the surname written as Glugh, Glewe and Glwe. The Glewe family is mentioned several times in the parish register of Masham during the early 1600s.
Only around 27 out of every million people have surname Glew or Glewe, and back in 1998 Doncaster boasted the largest concentration of Glewes.

GRAINGER
One surname source reckons there are 13,063 people sharing the surname Grainger, the 733rd most common name in Great Britain. Make that 13,064 now that our editor has recently joined the clan. A grainger was an important chap, usually working for the Lord of the Manor in medieval or even earlier times, responsible for overseeing the collection of rent in kind into the barns and storehouses of the manor. He would look after the grange on behalf of his lordship and occupy one of the estate’s best cottages. The name is popular in Yorkshire but the biggest concentration is in the Midlands.

GREEN/GREY
Calling people names because of the way they look could get you in trouble today, but some 700-800 years ago it was considered normal. In villages where there might have been dozens of people called John, they would have been distinguished one from another by describing their looks — perhaps John White, Grey or Brown etc, and these eventually became their surnames.
Sometimes the name might relate to a person’s complexion or the colour of their hair. It is even known to have been related to the dominant colour of the clothes a person was associated with.
Blunt is another descriptive surname but not as we understand the word to mean today, for ‘blunt’ is an old Anglo-Norman French word meaning blonde.
Don’t worry if your name is Green — your ancestors didn’t have oddly shaded skin or hair – they were probably so called because they lived near the village green. The surname Black is even more misleading as it is not possible to say from which Old English word the name is derived… ‘blaec’ or ‘blac’. The former meant the dark colour; the latter meant almost the opposite: ‘pale’ (think of our current word ‘bleak’).
Thankfully, there weren’t that many words around to describe colours back in the thirteenth century, therefore we don’t have people called ‘muted mocha’, ‘fresh mountain dew’ or ‘urban obsession’ — just three modern colours to be found at the DIY store.

HARDISTY
A search of the 1911 Census for England and Wales reveals around 1,800 people with the name Hardisty (or similar spelling), with 90 per cent of them living in Yorkshire. Hardisty was one of the dominant family names in Nidderdale for centuries. In 1681 William and Arthur Hardisty bought the manorial rights to part of the Forest of Knaresborough. In the Hearth Tax of 1672 the Hardistys in Hampsthwaite and Fewston parishes, made up 7% of the taxpayers, meaning that many of them were landowners or well-to-do yeomen.
The surname goes back much further in Nidderdale history. Poll Tax records for the West Riding of 1379 show a Stephanus and a Johannes de Hardolfsty, both from the village of Great Timble.
Originally, Hardisty was a placename which has been recorded in several ways down the centuries, spelling varying as we changed our language. In Anglo-Saxon the place would have been called something similar to Heardwulfstig which means Hardulf’s path, Hardulf being the name of a Saxon landowner or an original settler in the area from pre-Norman times. His given name meant ‘brave wolf’.
Even though the majority of Hardistys seem to have stuck to their Yorkshire roots, one branch did spread afar and gain fame. Richard Charles Hardisty (1831-1889) became a politician in Canada and was so revered he had a village in Alberta named after him. There was also a Hardisty amongst the early settlers to New England in 1635.

HARKER
There has always been much speculation about the source of the  popular Yorkshire surname Harker.
One theory is that it was an occupational name given to a member of the Medieval Watch, a sort of early policeman. This derives from the seventh century Old English word ‘herkien’ meaning to listen or harken. It has also been said that it comes from a continental personal name Arker or even that early holders of the name arrived from Harcourt in Normandy. Some claim it was a nickname for an eavesdropper while others say that a harker was a kind of spear used by ancient armies and so the name was given to someone who made or used them.
My preference for the Yorkshire clan is that it derives from a place in Swaledale which we now know as Harkerside but which was once recorded, amongst other names, as Herkey. Back in in the 1500s there were families called Harkaye listed in Swaledale manorial rolls and church records but by the 1600s the descendants of these families had changed the spelling to Harker… probably due to the fact that few people could read or write or the person recording the name could not clearly understand the local accent. The origin of that place-name is likely to be from a personal name of an early Norse settler.

HATTERSLEY
The largest concentration of the Hattersley surname is to be found in Yorkshire – in Sheffield in the south and the York area to the north. The name obviously stems from a location but surname experts don’t all agree as to where that place might be.
The most obvious choice you would have thought is a place just over the Yorkshire border in Longdendale, Cheshire, now called Hattersley, but which was once known as ‘heahdeor leah’ – a pre seventh-century term meaning ‘deer enclosure’.
However, others believe the surname stems from what is now known as Haddlesey, near Selby. Around the time of the Norman conquest this place was recorded as Hathelsae, meaning ‘marshy pool’. The surname was first seen in writing in the Yorkshire Poll Tax returns for 1379 where Willelmus de Hatyray and Amicia Hattisray appear. Pronunciation and spelling for many surnames and place-names have changed dramatically over the centuries
The two places may explain the distinct regions of distribution for the surname. Former politician and author Roy Hattersley is famously connected with Sheffield, so he may well stem from the south Yorkshire clan.
Other famous Hattersleys were Richard and his son George, the earliest manufacturers of power looms, based in Keighley. Their first loom, built in 1834, didn’t last long though as it was wrecked by Luddites at Nab Wood, Shipley, while being delivered to a mill.

HEBBLETHWAITE
There are certain surnames which conjure up ‘Yorkshireness’  all on their own. One such is Hebblethwaite, stemming as it does from a place meaning ‘clearing near the plank bridge’. There could once have been more than one place called Hebblethwaite but the most popular would seem to have been in the Calderdale area.  When surnames first came into common use, around the 13th century, many people took on the name of the place where they originated when they moved from the village, probably for work ,and settled somewhere else. Not surprisingly, in 1881 the biggest congregation of Hebblethwaites was around Halifax but nowadays  many seem to have migrated north east and can be found in the East Riding.

HEPWORTH
Unsurprisingly, the name Hepworth stems from people who, when surnames first started being needed (around the 1300s), lived in the village of Hepworth, near Huddersfield. The 1881 Census shows there were 3,418 Hepworths registered in the country — around 70 per cent of them living in Yorkshire. Further back, around 1274, six male ‘de Heppeworths’ were recorded in the County Court Rolls.
Over the centuries the majority of Hepworths did not travel very far. The 1672 Hearth Tax returns for the West Riding stated that many of 40 taxpayers named Hepworth had moved to the nearby Calder Valley or the mining areas of south-west Yorkshire where work was available.
It is thought that there are less than 9,000 Hepworths around the world with the highest concentration now being in the Heckmondwike area – which happens to be where my late mother, a Hepworth herself, was born.
The place-name is thought to translate to ‘the farmstead of Heppa’, an Anglo-Saxon given name, although there is also an ancient word, ‘hep’, which means high. Hepworth is certainly high – and steep.
It is said that Hepworth was the most northern point reached by the plague of 1665 which devastated London. According to local legend the disease arrived via cloth brought from the capital. To save as many residents as possible, the village was split into two parts at Barracks Fold. Those who were infected were isolated in one half. Thirteen people died there – a considerable percentage of the village’s population at the time.
Joseph Hepworth (1834–1911), from Lindley, founded clothing manufacturers Joseph Hepworth & Son, which became the UK’s largest clothing manufacturer. Sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s family were from the Batley area, and it is likely that she, and most of today’s Hepworths, sprang from those half-dozen or so males who lived in the village back in the 13th century.

HESKETH
Hesketh is best known as a Lancastrian name but there’s a fair sprinkling in Yorkshire too and it could be the different groups have separate origins. The surname started when someone moved from somewhere called Hesketh and took on the place of their birth as a surname so that he could be distinguished from someone else in the village or town to where he’d moved.
There are several places around the country called Hesketh – today the best known being Hesketh Bank, near Southport. There’s also Hesket in Cumberland but the Yorkshire branch of Heskeths could well have stemmed from a place near West Ardsley. At one time this Hesketh would have been a small hamlet but now it’s just about been gobbled up by surrounding areas. You will still find Hesketh Farm and Hesketh Lane etc.
There are also other places in Yorkshire named Hesketh and they were all originally to with horses. ‘Hestre’  is an Old Norse name meaning horse while ’skied’ (or similar) was a word for course or track… in other words, what we now call a race course. Our Viking ancestors were very fond of horses… and yes, they did eat horsemeat.

HOPKINSON
Hopkinson is a good example of how both first names and surnames developed throughout the ages. Eight hundred years ago, before most people had surnames, and when Robert was a well-used name, villagers would make up a nickname to distinguish between one Robert and another. Alternatives for Robert included Hob and Hop. In the case of one particular branch they added kin to denote ‘little Hop’  to further distinguish the person from others. As time went on he too compounded the name by adding ‘son’ for further recognition. Hopkinson originated in the Derbyshire/South Yorkshire region. By the 1880s the Sheffield-Barnsley area saw the biggest concentration of Hopkinsons but in  surname terms it is still fairly rare, statisticians claiming it to be the  1697th most common name in Britain.

HORSFALL
hose with the surname Horsfall can be pretty sure that an ancestor once lived in the upper reaches of the Calder Valley. High in the Pennine hills on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border there was once a minor settlement – probably just a few cottages around a farmstead – called Horsfall (the spelling may have been different at the time).
As residents left to find work they took their ‘home’ name with them as a surname and so spread the Horsfall clan around the world. Although at first not many Horsfalls left the district – and who can blame them? Even by the 1800s you wouldn’t find many with the surname living too far from the Todmorden-Halifax area.
The place was probably located in the Lumbutts-Mankinholes region where you’ll still find Horse Wood and Horse Farm. It is generally thought that the name means ‘horse clearing’ – an area cleared by the Lord of the Manor for his animals. But there is some doubt, as a Middle English (spoken 1100-1500) word ‘hors’ also means ‘deep or noisy’, so it could have been a description of the area which has some steep valleys.
Some people called Horsefield, and even Horsforth, have also stemmed from those early Horsfall residents through different spellings or misinterpretations down the centuries.
A William del Horsfall was recorded in the Calder Valley as far back as 1316. A wealthy mill-owning family of Horsfalls built Storthes Hall Mansion, near Kirkburton in 1788, but the most flamboyant bearer of the surname must have been racing driver St John Ratcliffe Stewart ‘Jock’ Horsfall. As if the name and occupation wasn’t enough to bring him fame, during the war he drove for the Secret Service and had a major role in Operation Mincemeat. This was a plot to fool the Germans into thinking the Allies were to land in Greece instead Italy. The escapades of his group helped bring an end to the war and were featured in the film The Man Who Never Was (1956). ‘Jock’ was killed in a racing crash in 1949 aged just 39.

ISSOTT
Is Issott of Ossett or is it of Ysolt? Issott is a rare surname but most of the families bearing the name today appear to have roots in Yorkshire. Surname reference books and internet sites disagree over the name’s origin. There’s a theory that the name is derived from the given name Isolde. There is a romantic family tradition in the south west of the country that the Issotts (and various other surnames such as Izatt and Izzard etc) all stem from Isolde the wife of Tristram, nephew of the King of Cornwall of Arthurian legend. There is another theory claiming the name could be a corruption of an old Germaic word ishild, meaning ‘ice battle’, or even from other very early personal names such as Izod or Ysolt.
But I can’t help thinking that perhaps a Yorkshire variation could stem from the West Riding place-name Ossett. The Domesday Book refers to Ossett as Osleset, and was later written as Ossete. Some say the place belonged to a chieftain named Osla, others say the name comes from an Old Norse word for a ridge or chain of hills. It doesn’t take a great stretch of imagination to see that through dialect pronunciation and a scribe’s translation that the spelling of the surname could change.
Whatever the origin of either the surname or place-name – and we’ll probably never know for sure – people called Issott have been around Yorkshire for hundreds of years. John Issott was constable of Emley back in the 1500s and the name is found often in early court rolls for the county.

JEWSON
It’s always wise to take what you read on the internet with a very large pinch of salt. One website writer claims that the name Jewson simply means ‘the son of a Jew’. This is garbage as the word Jew didn’t appear anywhere until the eighteenth century, in the revised English language editions of the fourteenth-century first English translation of the New Testament. However, the name Jewson – and various similar names and spellings – has been around since at least the fourteenth century.
‘Jull’ and ‘Joue’ were shortened forms of personal names such as Julian and the female Juette, so these are more likely to have been the source of the surname Jewson.
One early and prominent bearer of the first name was Juetta de Arches (1127-1206) who was a powerful Norman heiress living at Thorpe Arch near York. There is a record of an Alice Jueson, christened in1565 at Rylstone near Skipton but the first recorded spelling of the family name is thought to be that of Richard Juwesone dated 1333, in the Court Rolls of the Borough of Colchester.
Today the biggest stronghold of the Jewson name in the country is around the Halifax-Huddersfield area with another strong branch in the far north east of Yorkshire.

JOWETT
That famous old Bradford car maker Jowett has brought international prominence to the surname. But when the Jowett brothers Benjamin and William, who in 1901 founded the company along with Arthur V Lamb, were just nippers their surname was rarely known outside the West Riding (according to the 1881 Census).
Spelling variations such as Jewitt are to be found in the county and elsewhere, and they all have the same original meaning. It is thought the name stems from a female monicker – probably Jouet which itself is a corruption of Juliana (similar to Juliette). It was quite unusual in the thirteenth century, around the time when surnames were being required more and more, that a woman’s name was used as a surname. She may have been a strong or important character in the village or a widow of renown.

LEAROYD
There’s nothing gives away your Yorkshire roots more than having a surname which derives from a placename within the county. Two readers have written in asking about their family names of Learoyd and Deighton. The latter is a more common surname, perhaps because there are at least  three places called Deighton in Yorkshire… near Huddersfield, Northallerton and York. They all got their names from old words ‘dic’ and ‘tun’ which basically means a settlement near, or surrounded by, a ditch or dyke. Nowadays the surname is most popular around the Harrogate to York region.
Unlike Deighton, the place called Learoyd never developed into a modern-day settlement. It was probably originally just a farmstead or tiny settlement where habitation faded out or it changed name. It is very likely this place was around the Calder Valley area. In Old English, spoken before the seventh century, ‘leah’ meant wood and ‘rod’ meant clearing. Probably the first written record of the name is to be found in the Poll Tax returns for the West Riding of 1379 when Alicia Legh-rode was required to hand over money to the King. The biggest concentration of the name nowadays is around Huddersfield.

LILEY
There’s a lot of conjecture about the surname Liley among experts, especially on the internet where a great deal of guesswork with little foundation seems to prevail. Here in Yorkshire the majority of those people bearing the surname probably stemmed from a single family who in the Middle Ages lived in the Kirkburton area. Near Whitley you will still find Liley Lane, Liley Clough and Lyley Farm. But unlike many other examples of surnames starting when a family moved from a place so called, here the place-name actually stems from a family.
As late as 1493 the tiny collection of buildings were known as Liley Place – the home of the Lileys, a family who had been in the parish since before the twelfth century. The name had already gone through a variety of different spellings but was formerly ‘del Isle’ (ie island). A Juliana del Ylhe lived there in 1331 and it could well be that this family’s ancestors had been donated land in the area as far back as the Norman conquest. A possible early ancestor is Ralph de Insula of Kirkheaton who is mentioned in the Early Yorkshire Charters collection as holding land thereabouts in 1175.
Today the centre of the Liley population is still concentrated in the Huddersfield/Heavy Woollen area although there is also a large congregation in north Nottinghamshire, possibly stemming from a branch moving away to find work in the coalfields.

LISTER
The country’s biggest concentration of the name Lister is in the West Riding, especially in the area including Wakefield, Dewsbury and Halifax. And that’s not surprising really, given the meaning of the name and the type of industry which has developed there over the centuries. For Lister is an occupational name, meaning a dyer. It’s from an old Middle English word, litster (correct) meaning ‘female textile dyer’. One of the first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Ralph Litster, dated 1286, in the Court Rolls of the manor of Wakefield.

LORD
Discovering the original meaning of the surname Lord is a difficult task. There are many possible origins and some not as obvious as they might seem. The Anglo-Saxons had a word ‘hlaf-weard’ which translates literally as ‘loaf-keeper’ referring to a time when the appointed local chief had amongst his responsibilities that of ensuring that the village was properly fed.
Through different translations and spelling this became ‘lord’. The Normans later used ‘lord’ in relation to a status in nobility and so probably has no relation to its use as a surname.
It is more likely that today’s bearers of the name spring from someone who either worked for a lord or had the name originally as a nickname.
They might have gained the nickname through acting lordly, or by being elected as a ‘Lord of Misrule’, a medieval Yuletide custom which lasted several centuries, or after being appointed as ‘Lord of the Harvest’ – someone who was responsible for employing his harvest workers.
The earliest surviving record of the name appears to be that of William Le Lauerd, which was dated 1198, in the Pipe Rolls of Land Charters of Suffolk.
The name is popular in Yorkshire but Lancashire is the northern home of the Lords. The name was numerous in Rochdale parish in the sixteenth century.
There is a line of thought that claims the name started as a nickname from Old French ‘l’ord’, which means ‘the dirty one’, but for the sake of current owners of the name we’ll gloss over that theory.

LUMB
Lumb is very much a northern name – most people bearing the surname live in the West Riding and east Lancashire. It’s also one of the oldest recorded surnames in Yorkshire. Lumb stems from an old Celtic word for a deep pool and there are several places in the region from where families bearing the name might have originated, such as Lumb in Kirklees, Lumb Foot in Bradford and Lumbutts in Calderdale.

MAWSON/MOXON/PAWSON/POGSON
It’s stating the obvious to say that names like mine started out life as ‘son of Jack’. These kinds of names are known as patronyms (or matronyms if related to a mother’s name) and they are amongst the most widespread types of surnames. However, there are, especially in Yorkshire, another set of surnames ending in -son which at first don’t seem to belong in that category. I’m talking about  Pawson and Pogson, and Mawson and Mogson.
These groups of names are more common in our county than anywhere else and it could be partly down to the way we spoke centuries ago or how we tended to change and abbreviate personal names.
Pawson probably derives from ‘son of Paul’ although one theory is that ‘Paw’ originated as a nickname for someone bearing a fancied resemblance to a peacock, a particularly proud person, or one who wore bright, gaudy clothes —‘pawa’ being an Old English word for peacock. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages.
Pogson is ‘the son of Margaret’ – Pog being an earlier form of Peg, as Mog was of Meg. Mogson also became Mockson (later Moxon); similarly  Pogson became Pockson and Poxon.
Mawson is usually explained as ‘son of Matilda’, through the popular form Maud. It is an old Yorkshire name, although some experts claim ‘maw’ could be a derivative of Maurice. All these names can be found in Yorkshire documents from the around the thirteenth century onwards.

MAYNARD
The first people with the name Maynard probably landed on our shores with the Normans in 1066… but Maynard wasn’t their surname, for  ‘Maginhard’, as it was then, was a personal (first) name. Maginhard derives from two Germanic words meaning ‘strong and brave’.
The bulk of Maynards settled on the south coast around Kent and Sussex and there, along with Warwickshire is where we still find the largest congregation of those with the surname.
But there also developed a branch of the Maynard name in northern and easternYorkshire. A Sir Richard Maynarde of Kirklevington (near Yarm) fought at Agincourt in 1415. But before any Maynard runs away with the idea they are related to this ancient knight, it should be noted that at the time when surnames were becoming more and more necessary it was sometimes fashionable to give servants or estate workers the surname of their ‘masters’.
In the sixteenth century a Maynard family from Eryholme (a few miles south of Darlington) were cattle-breeders who set themselves up as gentry in Harlsey Hall near Northallerton and another branch of Maynards grew from Wass in the Kilburn parish.

NOWELL
The surname Nowell is recorded in many forms, such as Naul, Knells, Naull, Naulls, Noale, Noel, Noell and Nowill. The Nowell version is more established in the West Riding and Lancashire but it is now widely spread throughout the country. It probably derives from the pre 10th century Old French word ‘noel’ meaning Christmas, and may have been introduced by the Normans after the 1066 Invasion. It was therefore originally a baptismal name or a medieval nickname for somebody born during the Christmas holiday. Similar surnames include Easter and Midwinter, although Michaelmass, which existed in the 15th century, seems to have disappeared.

PETYT
It may seem an obvious statement to say the surname Petyt – and various spellings – is derived from the Old French word petit, meaning ‘small’. It would originally have been given to a small person or to the younger of two people who had the same first name. Not surprisingly the name was recorded after the Norman Conquest, in the Essex and Hampshire regions.
However, there is also a Flemish word ‘petyt,’ which means the same, and this is more likely to be the origin of the surname in the north of the UK. By the 1800s there were more people carrying the surname in the Bradford area of Yorkshire than anywhere else in the country. Nowadays the Wakefield postcode area contains the most Petyts.
The surname Petty, which is also found throughout much of Yorkshire, may be a variant of Petyt or it could have come from a place called Petty – again meaning ‘small’.

PHINN
Popular Yorkshire author and speaker Gervase Phinn says he was always more concerned about his first name than his surname while growing up. He took a fair bit of ribbing in his working-class home town of Rotherham over his unusual moniker – but his surname is not that common either.
Experts generally agree that Phinn is a variant of the more popular name of Finn, and it is also thought there may be a dozen other spellings of the surname. Only detailed genealogical research will uncover the origin of the Phinn variation, but for sure the name has been around for hundreds of years.
‘Phin’ was recorded as a first name in the Domesday Book of 1086, and very early references to Finn as a given name are also to be found in ancient Celtic, English, French and Scandinavian records. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (AD855), Finn is recorded as the name of fabled God Woden’s great-great-grandfather.
There are several theories about how the given name came about. One is that it stems from a Norse word finnr, meaning fair (as in colour) – similarly, the Irish word finn means white or fair. Finn was also used to describe someone from Finland or Lapland.
In the 1911 Census for England & Wales the largest concentration of those with the name spelt Phinn lived in the Stockton-Durham area. During the 1800s most Phinns were located in Scotland, around Dundee and the Highlands, leading many to believe in there being a strong Celtic connection.

PICKLES
‘Ow do. ‘Ow are yer? Give ‘im the money Mable… readers of a certain age will have already guessed this month’s Yorkshire surname through those lines from ‘t’ wireless’ uttered by our own Wilfred Pickles.
Wilfred holds the distinction of being the first person to regularly speak in an authentic regional accent on BBC radio. And his surname is real Yorkshire as well.
Pickles is a topographical name, first given to someone who once lived by a small field or paddock. It derives from the Middle English word ‘pightel’, meaning ‘a small enclosure’. Over the years it transformed into Pickles, Pickless, Pickle and Pighills, and is recorded mainly in Yorkshire. Wilfred was born in Halifax in 1904 and that area is still thought to have more residents with the name than anywhere else in the country.

POPPLEWELL
It is said that if we track back far enough in time we’ll find we’re all related to each other in some way. In the case of families with the good old Yorkshire names of Popplewell and Scholes, tracing a common ancestor might be found sooner than imagined.
The surnames are derived from place-names, and as both hamlets were originally part of the same area it is likely that many of the earliest inhabitants were related.
Popplewell was once a small collection of houses and farms on the edge of Hartshead Moor. Its name comes from the Old English words ‘popel’ meaning poplar tree and ‘well’ meaning spring. Old English was spoken by the Anglo-Saxons from the mid fifth century to the mid twelfth century so we know Popplewell is a very early settlement.
At some stage the hamlet became part of Scholes and was mentioned as such in 1228. The name Scholes is derived from a old Norse word, ‘skali’ meaning shelter so this word probably arrived with the Vikings (later than the Anglo-Saxons).
Back in 1254 Popplewell and Scholes housed only fourteen families with a population of  around seventy so it would be very likely there were inter-marriages within the community.
The earliest written proof of the Popplewell surname can be found in the Wakefield Court Rolls of 1316 where a John de Popelwelle is mentioned. Little evidence remains of the hamlet but there are roads leading from Scholes called Old Popplewell Lane and New Popplewell Lane off the B6120.
The name Scholes is not limited to this location, however, and several places – especially in the north – bear the name. The first recorded spelling of the surname is that of Richard del Scoles, dated 1275 in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield.

PRATT
Although Pratt is a surname spread throughout the country there is a large concentration in the East and North Ridings. It’s a very early surname and stems from an Old English (pre-seventh century) word
‘praett’, meaning a trick. It could well have been given firstly as a nickname to a conjurer or magician but meanings and relevance of words have changed down the years – and it could well be that ‘praett’ also meant what we now regard as ‘cunningly clever’. So this could have been applied to someone who was a master tactician during battle.
It is thought that the first official recording of the family name is believed to be that of Wilfric Prat, dated 1179, in the Seals Register” of  Suffolk. Today there are thought to be around 14,000 people named Pratt in the UK with the most numerous living in the West Midlands.

PRIESTLEY
The country’s  biggest concentration of people bearing the surname Priestley is in the Halifax area. Not surprising then that two of the world’s most famous Priestleys came from Yorkshire… Joseph Priestley of Birstall and J B Priestley of Bradford. The first bearers of the name would have originated from a place of that name… in Yorkshire’s case this would probably have been what is now called Priestley Green, an area of Halifax. J B Priestley’s unusual middle name, Boynton, is also from a placename – a village in the East Riding.

RALEIGH
A primary-school pal of mine was called Walter Raleigh, and later in life I befriended a Francis Drake. I’ve yet to meet a Christopher Columbus but I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere. Many of today’s Raleighs and Drakes – both fairly common names in the West Riding – will wonder whether they are related to the famous adventurers. Without detailed individual research it is impossible to confirm or deny but links are possible in both cases.
Drake, which probably derives from a nickname, possibly from dragon or the male duck, was quite widespread from the twelfth century with concentrations in Devon, Dorset, Norfolk and the West Riding by the sixteenth century.
William Drake of Shibden, near Halifax, is mentioned in 1275 documents and a Drake family was in possession of Horley Green, Northowram, from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. These Drakes were said to have come from Devon, birthplace of the famous Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596).
By the mid 1800s Drakes were to be found mainly in the Northowram area, Thornton, near Bradford, as well as in Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield.
The Raleighs are also an ancient Devon family, with the name probably stemming from a place-name in that area. There’s also always been a strong concentration of Raleighs in Yorkshire, especially in the Wakefield and Hull areas, so there may well have been a place in the county similarly named. Rawley, Rayleigh and Rawleigh are all variants. There is also a suggestion by experts that the name stems from an Irish given name (as in O’Riley). It is easy to imagine that an early scribe could translate Riley as Raleigh when listening to anyone with a thick Irish accent.
Columbus? Of the three bearers of the surname recorded in England in the 1881 British census one was born in Italy, one in Ireland, and one in Russia.

RAYNER
Rayner is a surname with an ancient lineage in Yorkshire. Early written references in the county date back to the 1300s but in Hampshire it was recorded as far back as 1148 as an very early surname and gives us a clue to its origin. That register shows a Ricardus filius Rainer – which means son of Rainer.
Rainer is a Norman French first name which probably came to these shores during or just after the Norman Conquest and means something akin to ‘leader of an army’.
Whether the Yorkshire branch of Rayners stem from this early family or from another following the Norse invasion of the north (Rayner is also an Old Norse baptismal name), we’ll never know.

RHODES
Although now found in many parts of the country, two hundred years ago the surname Rhodes was almost exclusively found in Yorkshire and east Lancashire. The first written record of the family name is believed to be that of Hugh de Rodes who was mentioned in the Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire in 1219, but the spoken name was around many years before that. It is thought to derive from an Anglo-Saxon word ‘rod(e)’ which originally meant a clearing. There are several place-names in the Lancashire-Yorkshire region called Rhodes – and there may have been several others which are now lost.  In the most recent survey of surnames the Bradford postal area contained the largest number of people with the name Rhodes in the country. Many readers will know of one of the most famous Yorkshire Rhodes as cricketer Wilfred Rhodes who was born in Kirkheaton and lived from 1877 until 1973.

SCAIFE
Many Yorkshire place-names and surnames stem from words once belonging to the Old Norse language. It is a North Germanic tongue formerly spoken in Scandinavia, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, parts of Russia, France and probably introduced to the British Isles by the Vikings.
‘Skeifr’ is an Old Norse word which means ‘awkward’ – similar to the modern English ‘askew’ or as some people say, ‘skewiff’.
The surname Scaife is derived from the word and was probably first given to someone as a descriptive nickname. One surname investigator claims that the name arose in the Northumberland area and was given to someone ‘born in a boat’.
The exact reason why early bearers deserved the nickname will never be known but the surname has survived and has been recorded in Yorkshire and the North East since the 11th century.
A Geoffrey Skaif was mentioned in the Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire as far back as 1219. The top postal area for the name is Harrogate, and it is scarcely found outside Yorkshire, with some experts having it down as the 4,957th most common name in Great Britain.

SCHOLES
It is said that if we track back far enough in time we’ll find we’re all related to each other in some way. In the case of families with the good old Yorkshire names of Popplewell and Scholes, tracing a common ancestor might be found sooner than imagined.
The surnames are derived from place-names, and as both hamlets were originally part of the same area it is likely that many of the earliest inhabitants were related.
Popplewell was once a small collection of houses and farms on the edge of Hartshead Moor. Its name comes from the Old English words ‘popel’ meaning poplar tree and ‘well’ meaning spring. Old English was spoken by the Anglo-Saxons from the mid fifth century to the mid twelfth century so we know Popplewell is a very early settlement.
At some stage the hamlet became part of Scholes and was mentioned as such in 1228. The name Scholes is derived from a old Norse word, ‘skali’ meaning shelter so this word probably arrived with the Vikings (later than the Anglo-Saxons).
Back in 1254 Popplewell and Scholes housed only fourteen families with a population of  around seventy so it would be very likely there were inter-marriages within the community.
The earliest written proof of the Popplewell surname can be found in the Wakefield Court Rolls of 1316 where a John de Popelwelle is mentioned. Little evidence remains of the hamlet but there are roads leading from Scholes called Old Popplewell Lane and New Popplewell Lane off the B6120.
The name Scholes is not limited to this location, however, and several places – especially in the north – bear the name. The first recorded spelling of the surname is that of Richard del Scoles, dated 1275 in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield.

SPEIGHT
There’s a large group of surnames which originally started out as nicknames… Short, Long, Sharp etc. But one of the strangest – and a very Yorkshire name – is Speight. Hereabouts, back in medieval times, speyt was the local word for what we now call a woodpecker.
But it’s a mystery as to how anyone would be nicknamed a ‘woodpecker’. It probably related to some characteristic the person had – but it’s difficult to imagine that this came about after he was seen banging his head against a tree.
Maybe it was more to do with him finding his way quickly through a forest, or sounding like a woodpecker while doing work in the woods, or maybe he was someone who showed perseverance and patience.
A William Speyt was recorded as far back as 1297 in Yorkshire. John Speght appears in Wakefield in 1313 and there were many early Speights found in the Kirkburton register dating back to the 1500s.
Even today there are only few Speights found outside the county although there’s a group around the Glasgow region of Scotland.

SPIVEY
Spivey is generally thought of as a Yorkshire name with very few people bearing the name being found outside the county some 200 years ago. One of the earliest written records of the name is that of Robert Spivie, found in the Almondbury Parish records, dated 1565. The 1911 Census shows only 888 Spivey families in the country – most being found within a 20 mile radius of Huddersfield. The best guess at the name’s origin is that it was originally from an Olde English word meaning ‘smart’ and given as a nickname – as in ‘a good dealer’ or businessman. The word probably has the same root as ‘spiv’ which during the twentieth century, especially during the war, was used to describe someone who was a bit of a shady business character.

SPURR
The surname Spurr (and several variations) is found in many parts of the country but the greatest concentration of the name is nowadays found around the Wakefield area. There are two possible origins, one is that of an occupational surname from pre medieval times describing a maker of spurs and bits for horses, one of the most important trades of ancient times. The acknowledged centre of the occupation in the whole country was the city of Ripon. However, the name may occasionally be of residential origin and describe a person who lived by or on a ‘spur’ – a piece of land jutting out above the local landscape.

STOTT
Ask someone from the North East about the word stot and they’ll tell you it means to bounce. Their famous stottie cakes – oven bottom bread – are supposedly so-called because they’re so heavy if you drop them on the floor they’ll bounce.
They and the Scots have a game game called stotting which is basically bouncing a ball against a wall. And if they see a young animal such as a lamb, a kid goat or young bullock leaping off all four legs they’ll tell you it’s stotting.
In a few cases the surname Stott (and variations) may stem from this meaning but in the main anyone with so called will probably have a very distant ancestor who once looked after cattle. For stot is also an old word from pre-seventh century English meaning cattle or bullocks. The original bearer of the surname would either have been someone who bred cattle or looked after a herd.
Early examples of the recorded surname include John Stotte in the 1296 Subsidy Rolls of the county of Sussex, and Elena la Stott in the Colchester Court rolls for the year 1312.
Not surprisingly the surname is particularly well recorded in cattle-breeding areas such as on the slopes of the Pennines in East Lancashire and the West Riding. The first known spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gamel Stot, which was dated 1165, registered in the county pipe rolls of Yorkshire.

STUBBS
The YO (York) postal district now has one of the country’s biggest concentrations of people bearing the name Stubbs. It is also one of the earliest recorded surnames.
There are three possible origins for the name, one being that it was taken by people who left the village of Stubbs near Pontefract which was around at the time of the Domesday Book. The village name probably comes from an old word stybb, which meant ground covered by tree stumps, and this could also give rise to the second origin of the name… given a person who lived close to such an area. The third and less flattering suggestion is that it was originally a nickname for someone who was short or stocky.
The 1185 Knight Templar rolls show a Richard Stubbe of Yorkshire while other early mentions include Henry de Stubbes of Yorkshire in 1273, Robert del Stobbes of Cheshire in 1288 and Richard ate Stubbs of Sussex in 1327. Henricus de Stubbys appears in the 1379 Poll Tax Rolls of York.
But the first record is thought to be that of Aelfeah Stybb in the Old English Bynames written during the reign of King Ethelred in c1000.

SUTCLIFFE
In the national census of 1881 Sutcliffe was the 48th most popular surname in Yorkshire, and there were very few with the name to be found outside the county. The surname arose when people moved out of a place called Sutcliffe – which stems from two pre seventh-century words ‘sueth’ and ‘clif’, meaning ‘south slope’.
There could have once been a few so called places in the county but the main one, from which the largest line of Sutcliffes emerged, is probably the place now called Sutcliffe Wood near Hipperholme.
Surname experts reckon there were 23 Sutcliffes taxed in 1509, with eighteen of them living in Wadsworth, near Hebden Bridge, where the largest concentration of Sutcliffes can still be found. The first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Hugo de Suthclif in the 1275 Wakefield Rolls. Other early recordings include Willelmus Sothclyff (1379) in the Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire.
Interestingly one source offers the thought that some Sutcliffes may stem from a family who came from the Low Countries and settled in England following persecution, citing Gamel de Zoetcliffe, a Flemish clothier who brought fulling mills to Lancashire and Yorkshire in the early 1300s.
Other famous Sutcliffes include Abraham, an early settler in New England, America. Then there is Herbert Sutcliffe, the famous Nidderdale-born cricketer, and also Headingley’s pioneering photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. Sadly we must mention Bingley’s Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who brought shame to the surname.

SWALES
Swale and the variant Swales is a good old Yorkshire name. According to Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley, it originates from a hamlet called Swallow Hill, near Barnsley, Swale being the local pronunciation, but modern research leans towards the majority of families formerly residing beside the River Swale in Swaledale. The river name is derived from the pre-seventh-century Anglo-Saxon and German word ‘swalm’ meaning a whirlpool, intermixed with the Old English ‘swillan’ meaning to wash. Where the surname is in the plural form of Swales, this describes someone who was still resident by the Swale, rather than one who was formerly at the place. The most popular area for the name is the Harrogate district.

SYKES
The Huddersfield district has a larger concentration of people bearing the surname Sykes than anywhere else in the world. The name derives from the old English (pre seventh century) word sic, which means rivulet, stream or water course. Just over the border near Rochdale there is also a place called Syke. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Unusually, it was recorded in 1998 that there were 356 fewer people in the country with the name Sykes than there were a hundred years previously (14,398).

TALBOT
Talbot is an ancient surname which even appears in the Domesday Book completed in 1086 – almost 300 years before most of our surnames first came to be recorded. Richard Talebot was the chap registered as a tenant in that great Norman survey.
In a book by E P Shirley about the English nobility, the author writes about the Talbot line: “This great historical family is traced to the Conquest, Richard Talbot, living at that period, being the first recorded ancestor. No family in England is more connected with the history of our country than this noble race; few are more highly allied. The Marches of Wales appear to be the original seat; afterwards we find the Talbots in Shropshire, in Staffordshire … and lastly in Yorkshire, at Sheffield, derived from the great heiress of Neville Lord Furnival.”
Experts generally agree that the surname was once used as a first name, probably a Germanic personal name composed of the elements tal ‘destroy’ and bod ‘message’ or ‘tidings’, ie ‘messenger of destruction’.
It is unlikely that the surname is associated with the Talbot dog which was a type of hunting hound, after which several pubs around the country have been named. However, in a quotation from 1449, Henry VI did refer to John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, as “Talbott, oure good dogge”.
One of the early Yorkshire Talbots was Willelmus, who is mentioned in the 1379 Poll Tax for the county. The Talbots were major early landowners in the parish of Giggleswick and in neighbouring Settle there is a pub called the Talbot Arms.
In the 1891 Census, 620 of the 7,902 Talbot names (8 per cent) lived in Yorkshire – the only higher concentrations being in Lancashire (13 per cent) and Staffs (10 per cent). Talbot is ranked as 1,235th commonest name with an estimated 22,725 persons so called. Variants include Talbert, Tolbert and Talbott.

TEE
Experts have come up with several ideas for the origin of the nam,e Tee but until time travel is possible and we can go back through the centuries to when the surname was first used I doubt that a definitive answer will be found.
It is estimated that there are just under 2,000 people named Tee in the UK. That makes it the 4,637th most common surname in the country.
One very plausible explanation is that ’Tee’ was in the past a shortened form of the first name Teague. This is a Gaelic name with various spellings such as Tighe, Taidhg and Taidhe and is found mainly in Ireland and the Isle of Man. First names often got shortened or changed to distinguish the bearer from others with the same name – such as when children were named after one of their parents or there were many others in the locality so called. We still do it today with names like Jo for Joseph/Josephine, or Nancy for Anne etc.
Another theory is that Tee is a topographical name stemming from an Old English word ‘teag’ which became ‘tye’ in medieval English. Both variations mean a clearing or large common pasture, particularly near a river. So the original bearer of the surname could have lived by such a place. We have to remember that pronunciation of words from our older languages would not always sound as they would using today’s spelling, and that many early scribes could only guess at the spelling of a name. In many cases the bearer of the name wouldn’t be able to read or write.
The River Tees is thought to be related to the ancient British – similar to Welsh – word ‘tes’ meaning sunshine or heat and is likely to describe boiling or surging water.
Some surname sources will tell you that Tee is a name imported from abroad. It is a very popular Asian name – one of the most frequently found names in Malaysia – but unless you have Asian ancestry this is very unlikely to be the source of your surname.

THROP
‘As thrang as Throp’s wife’ is an old Yorkshire description for someone is very busy or snowed under with jobs. Who Throp was we’ll never know  but he has a very West Riding name, probably originating in the Halifax-Bradford area. Throp is an Old English word (pre-sixth century) and is a variation of Thorp… which Danish settlers later used to mean ‘a farm lying outside a village’.

TINGLE
Tingle is a fairly unusual name throughout the whole country but the biggest concentration can be found in south Yorkshire. It’s not surprisingly really, given the area’s ancient connection with metalworking and foundries, as a tingle was the medieval name for a small kind of nail. When surnames became necessary around the fourteenth century, the person who made them became known as Tingle or Tingler.

TORDOFF
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Tordoff was a foreign name, perhaps relating to some migrant escaping persecution during a recent war. But no, it’s as Yorkshire as they come – most likely deriving from some Scandinavian settler from a thousand years ago. Theory has it that the name comes from a Viking personal name similar to Thjodulf which comes from the Norse word for the God of thunder, Thor, and ulfr meaning wolf.
The surname has been around in written form since the thirteenth century and a by the 1500s there were strong branches of the family in the Hartshead to Bradford area, Leeds and York.
Thordulf (also recorded as Thridwulf) was Abbot of Barwick in Elmet back in the eleventh century while William Tordofft, a pewterer, was listed in the rolls of the freemen of the city of York in 1499. Many youngsters growing up in Heckmondwike during the 1950s and early 1960s will remember with fondness a toy shop in the town known as Tordoffs.

TRIGG
As a general rule surnames fall into four categories – those derived from a father or mother’s first name (Jackson, Robinson etc); occupational names (Baker, Smith etc); topographical or place- names (Hill, Haworth etc); and descriptive names (White, Good etc).
The latter group tends to contain the most interesting surnames as many started out as localised nicknames. This month’s name is Trigg the origin of which could  actually fall into three of the four groups mentioned above.
‘Triggr’ is an Old Norse word meaning faithful or trustworthy which was not only given to someone with those characteristics but was also given as a first name. Anyone with the surname Triggs would originally have descended from a person known as ‘son of Triggr’.
The personal first-name of Trig was recorded as far back as the Records of the Templars in England in twelfth-century, while a Johannes Tryg, was named in the Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379.
It is thought there are approximately 4,000 people named Trigg in the UK which makes it the 2,561st most common surname overall.  The majority can be found in Gloucestershire but here the origin of their name may differ, as there is an area of Cornwall called Trigg.

TWISLETON
Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE, explorer, writer and all-round good egg would appear to have enough surnames to keep this column in material for a fair while.
He was born in Berkshire but it’s the Twiselton bit we’re interested in here in Yorkshire. This branch of his elongated surname probably had its origins just above Ingleton in the north-west of the county.
The name means ‘settlement at the fork of a river’ from Old English words ‘twisla’ and ‘tun’ – in this case where Kingsdale Beck meets the River Greta.
There’s not much left of the settlement now but the name survives all around the region, the most famous being Twisleton Scar, a fine limestone outcrop that stretches from above Ingleton to Chapel-le-Dale along the slopes of Whernside.
Twisleton families to have been recorded in North Craven for seven centuries, with William de Twyselton mentioned as holding land near Ingleborough as far back as 1316. Over the centuries the name spread, somewhat thinly, around the county and beyond.
One John Twiselton moved from Yorkshire to London where he worked as a goldsmith for Henry VIII and it is this person who eventually links in to Sir Ranulph’s impressive pedigree.
Today the largest concentration of Twisletons is in Northamptonshire, although this may be a different branch as there is a place called Twisleton Heath near Milton Keynes. There is also a village called Twiston, near Blackburn in Lancashire which could be a shortened version of Twisleton.

VERITY
News of the well-deserved knighthood for Gary Verity and memories of his famous cricketing namesake Hedley Verity (1905-43) got me thinking about their very Yorkshire surname. The 1841 census of England, the first to record surnames, registers 724 people named Verity – all but 109 of them living in this county. Today, the Harrogate postal area remains the name’s stronghold.
The origin of the name is a little sketchy. Some experts suggest it started as a nickname for a truthful person, perhaps for someone who was in the habit of insisting repeatedly on the truth of the stories he told, from Middle English ‘verite’ meaning ‘truth(fulness)’.
The surname may sometimes have been acquired by someone who had acted as the personification of Truth in a mystery play or pageant. Thirteenth-century humour and attitudes were very different from the those of today and it is even possible that the original meaning of the nickname was the reverse of ‘verite’.
Verity has also been used as a first name for centuries and this could have led to it becoming a surname. Whatever its origin, the name has been around since at least 1379 when a Thomas Verty (correct) appears in the Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire for that year.

WADKIN
Many first names come in then go out of fashion and sometimes the spelling changes too. Such is the case for the surname Wadkin which basically means ‘child of Wad’. Back in the time of the Domesday Book of 1086 Wad (spelled various ways – Waeddie and Waddes etc) was a popular first name. The surname Wadsworth is derived from the place of the same name near Hebden Bridge – this orginally meant Waeddi’s enclosure’.
Back in the 1800s the buggest concentration of people with the surname Wadkin was in the Nottingham area but this had shifted to the Bradford-Leeds region a hundred years later, probably due to families moving to find work in the industrial areas.
Wadsworth has remained a Yorkshire and East Lancashire name for centuries, first recorded in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield in 1275.

WALTON
Walton is thought to be the 205th most common surname in England and that’s not surprising really as it has many possible origins.The first bearers of the name would have come from a place called Walton (or similarly named). Early scribes would have recorded a person as, for example, ‘John de Walton’ to distinguish him from all the other Johns in a village. Gradually the ‘de’ bit was dropped and Walton became the family’s surname (many scribes were of Norman origin and wrote ‘de’ for ‘of’).
Today there are more than sixty place-names in Britain containing the word Walton and there could once have been even more. The ‘ton’ part is easy to translate from our early languages, as it  simply means town or settlement. But the ‘wal’ bit could stem from many different words: ‘w(e)ald’ (a wood), ‘walh’ (an ancient Briton, or farm worker), ‘wealla’ (a wall), ‘waella) (a spring), and others.
So it is very difficult to pinpoint a particular origin for anyone called Walton unless they have a well-documented pedigree. Today the largest concentration of the name can be found around the Darlington area, and indeed all across the line of Hadrian’s Wall, which may offer another clue as to the origin of some Walton families.
Sir John de Wauton was given the manor of Masham for helping the Normans. This family’s name certainly appears in early documents as Walton – and Wanton – but as the Wauton spelling still existed in fifteenth-century papers then it is unlikely that today’s Waltons are descended from Sir John’s line.

WARDROP
The register of births, marriages and deaths for the rural parish of Masham in North Yorkshire carries some interesting and ancient Yorkshire surnames. One which caught my eye is Wardropps, which appears in the register from the date surnames started being officially recorded in the parish in 1599. The name has also been written as Wardrobb, Wardrobe, Wardrop and other variations in the register.
But, you might well ask, why would someone be named after a piece of furniture? Well, the word’s meaning has changed over the centuries. It was the conquering Normans who introduced the word ‘garderobe’ which came to describe someone who looked after royal or dignitaries’ possessions. These would include not only clothes but furniture and other household possessions – even expensive foreign spices and food items, so the keeper of the wardrobe would have been an important member of staff.
When surnames became more necessary the person’s family would have taken on the original holder’s name but not necessarily the position. Thomas de Garderoba appears in the Yorkshire Manor Rolls which were written in 1286. There are other early recordings of the surname all around the country. Today, the variant spelling of Wardropper is most common in the North-East of the county, Newcastle and around Hull, whereas Wardrop can be found mainly in Scotland.
While looking through parish registers you can often be sidetracked, as I was with the Masham book. The list of occupations listed beside some of the burials throws up some intriguing questions. In amongst the brewers, millers, husbandmen and farmers, which you’d expect in the quaint country parish, are pirates, a Russian merchant, a Scotch trooper and a whore.

WATERTON
Reader Graham Waterton asks if his surname is rare, as when his family moved to Leeds they were the only Watertons in the local phone book. Although Waterton the place is not in Yorkshire, the family name has been in the county for at least 700 years.
Waterton is a deserted village on the River Trent near Garthorpe, Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire, not far from the Yorkshire border and the river Ouse. It was abandoned around the early sixteenth century, and only the seven-bedroom Waterton Hall remains — now Waterton Hall Farm — built in Georgian times.
One Waterton line claims Norman heritage through Reiner de Waterton, lord of the manor of Waterton. One of his sons, William Waterton, was born in 1300 and married Elizabeth Newmarch in 1325 in Yorkshire. A younger son married Catherine Burghe, heiress to the estate of Walton, near York.
Soon after the Domesday survey, Waterton the place became the property of the Abbot of Selby and at some point between 1160 and 1179 it was given to Reiner de Normanby who later took the name de Waterton.
The Waterton family history is well worth researching. Notable members of the family include John de Waterton (Master of the Horse), Robert Waterton (guardian of Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York), Sir Hugh Waterton, Sir Robert and Sir Thomas Waterton (High Sheriffs of Yorkshire), Lady Margaret Waterton (Lady of the Garter) and Charles Waterton the naturalist. Robert Waterton is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Richard II. The family was granted much land in Northumberland and Yorkshire.
However, Graham, before you rub your hands in glee and set off in search of the family fortune, you should know that this famous Waterton line wouldn’t have been the only one to take on the village name. Also, there is another place called Waterton in Scotland.
In 1881 the largest concentration of Watertons lived around Hemel Hempstead, with the next biggest being in the Wakefield area. By 1998 the largest number could be found in the Wakefield and Leeds region. The 1841 census listed around 300 people named Waterton, 19 of those in Scotland with around 40 in Yorkshire.

WIGFALL
There will be plenty of older West Riding people who will remember renting their first TV set from Wigfalls. And the surname of Wigfall is very much from that area. It was originally given to people who came from a lost location called Wigfall which may have been around the Wentworth area. The place-name means the farm (wic) by the waterfall (feall), from Old English (pre seventh century language). During the Middle Ages, when it became more common for people to migrate further afield to seek work outside their locality, they would often adopt the place-name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Early examples of the surname from surviving charters and church registers include Johannes Wigfall of York in the Poll Tax rolls of 1379 although the first recorded spelling of the family name is probably that of Henry de Wigfall. in 1332 in the Curia Regis rolls of landowners of Yorkshire. A hundred years ago the biggest congregation of Wigfalls was in the Sheffield area but today you’ll find most Wigfalls in Leicestershire.

WILDMAN
Hidden deep in my family’s tree is a branch of ancestors with the surname Wildman. They lived in the Tatham-Bentham-Ingleton area in the 1600s, and there are still plenty of Wildman families in the western dales.
There’s a lot of conjecture about how the surname first began and there may well have been separate origins in different parts of the country. It has been said that when the Normans invaded some inhabitants fled to the woods and were given the description by the settlers of ‘silvaticus’ which means ‘of the woods’ or ‘wild’.
Other experts have claimed that a wildman was another name for a mercenary, or one who refused to live by the local law… a Robin Hood type figure. The Old English (pre seventh century) word ‘wilde’ meant undisciplined or out of control.
There are other similar surnames, such as Wild, but here the description might have related to the place from where the person came, rather than him living wild.
Yorkshire and Lancashire have by far the largest number of Wildman families and one of the earliest recorded instances of the embryonic surname was in 1362 at Bolton Castle where a note is made of ‘Robert a wildman’. There is also a Willelmus Wyldman in the Poll Tax register for the county of Yorkshire in 1379.

WIMPENNY
Amateur genealogists called Smith or Jones would give their family gold to be called Wimpenny. The name is so rare that in the 1911 census there were only around 760 of the Wimpenny clan recorded. However, there is a downside to researching such a name, in that it has changed down the centuries and variants – such as Winpenny, Wimpney and even Penny, plus several others – frequently crop up. What you can be sure of is that the vast majority come from Yorkshire… and most of them have stayed here.
The name would have originally been a nickname, probably for someone who was keen to gain money or possessions – stemming from early English words ‘winnan’ (to gain) and ‘pening’ (a penny).
The surname is recorded in the early 14th century, with William Wynpenny of Ripon appearing in the Poll Tax rolls for 1379, and it frequently appears in the Chapter Books (1450-1500) of Ripon. Another early reference shows a Willelmus Wynpeny, a tapitar (what we’d today call a bartender) as a Freeman of York in 1425.
In the Yorkshire Archives are several 15th-century deeds for the Wympennys of Stanley and it was probably this strain (with the ‘m’) who a century later moved on to the Huddersfield area which remains the name’s stronghold.

YORK(E)
While York (Yorke) is a fairly common name and one which doesn’t need much explanation regarding its origin, the place-name from which it is derived has an interesting history. A couple of thousand years ago when the Brigantes tribe ruled our region, they called it Eburac, a Celtic name meaning ‘yew tree’. When the Romans landed they Latinised this to Eburacum, but that name was meaningless to the Anglian settlers of the sixth century and they translated as Eoforwic, which it is believed meant ‘the place of the boar’ in their language. This gradually developed into Everwic until the Danes pounced on the great city and wrote its name in their records as Jorvik (pronounced Yorwick).
By the time surnames came into being for common people during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, several more variations had been written down, including Yeorc, Yerk, Yourke, Yarke and York.
However, even in 1160 in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, one obviously educated chap insisted his surname be recorded as Ernisius de Eboracum. In the 1273 Hundred Rolls for Yorkshire appears a Gilbert de Ebor, while in the 1379 Poll Tax Rolls for the county is Agnes de York. The Bishop of York is still allowed to sign his surname as Ebor in official documents.
It may surprise you to know that the biggest concentration of people called Yorke is to be found in … the African country of Ghana. Around 6,500 Ghananians are named Yorke, while in England the figure is nearer 3,000.