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

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

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

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Denis but Denise, Nicholas but Nichola, this was not the case in medieval England. In the records women’s names are normally given a final -a, but in the vernacular the pronunciation of the names was usually much the same. Hence such names as Paulina, Eustacia, Andrea, Jurdana, Dionisia, were indistinguishable from the masculine forms, and have probably contributed to the resulting surnames. Some classical feminine names were in use, though they have rarely given rise to surnames: Camilla 1208 Cur (Ess); Caesaria 12th Rams (Hu); Cassandra de Bosco 1283 SRSf; Diana 1256 AssNb; Felicia de Winterburn’ 1208 P (W); Olimpias 1207 Cur (Gl); Philomena 1202 FFY; Prudencia de Pavely 1210 Cur (Nf).

In his Memoirs of the Wilsons of Bromhead,59 Joseph Hunter demolishes the earlier pedigrees by proving errors of heralds and forging of documents. The family descended ultimately from William, father of John de Hunshelf or de Waldershelf (b. c1320) but owed their surname, not to this William, but to William (1369–87), father of John Wilson de Bromhead who is called John son of William son of John de Waldershelf in 1398. Hunter notes that John Dyson de Langeside derived his surname from his mother Dionysia de Langside (1369) and that a Thomas Richardson was the son of Richard de Schagh (1409).

Later examples of the instability of surnames are: William Saukyn alias Archer (1442), Philip Daunce alias Defford (1473); John Walworth, called Mundis (1502), John Bullok alias Byde (1527), Richard Bolle alias Bronde (1568 ER 61); Richard Johnson alias Jackeson, whose daughters were Margaret Richardson and Elizabeth Richardson 1568 AD v (Ch); Richard son of Geoffrey Reynald of Edmascote otherwise called Richard Ryvelle, otherwise Richard son of Joan, daughter of William Ryvell 1408 Cl. Another example of a surname from a mother’s name is: John Organ of Treworian, son of Organa, wife of Ives de Treworian 1327 AD v.

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