Kinsearching May 26, 2013




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Because tracing family roots revolves around names, genealogists are naturally interested in the various spellings, meaning, and ethnic background of the numerous surnames in their pedigrees. Since the New World was settled by immigrants from all over the world, many North Americans are descendants of a mixture of nationalities; researchers often assume their immigrant progenitors were not. However, that is not necessarily the case. For example, people who have forebears from England may discover that the origin of many English ancestors may lie elsewhere. That facet is only one discussed in the reprint of FAMILY NAMES AND THEIR STORY by Sabine Baring-Gould.

     Originally published in London in 1910, Baring-Gould’s study of English surnames contains interesting material that remains pertinent. Like most histories concerning family names, the author begins with the evolution of surnames from general fundamental sources, including clan and tribal names, nicknames, geographic place names, occupations, physical characteristics, and animals as well as the addition of prefixes and suffixes to many names. Also analyzed are major resources listing early surnames in England, such as the famous Domesday Book, the Liber Vitae (Book of Life), the Roll of Battle Abbey, and various other rolls.

     To highlight several of the different peoples who contributed to the composition of English names, Baring-Gould devotes individual chapters to Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, French (particularly the Huguenot refugees), Scottish, and Irish origins. Scattered throughout parts of the text are references to Welsh, Flemish, German, and miscellaneous other ethnic names. In addition, the author presents information about compound names and name changes due to inheritance, vanity, adoption, or anglicization (adapting or translating a foreign name to make it sound more English). Another chapter recounts stories, which are often fables, about the beginnings of several specific family names.

     Although written in the language style of the early twentieth century, the narrative is easy to read and contains much detailed information. Readers may want to peruse the entire volume or pick and choose certain areas of interest. Needless to say, the material in FAMILY NAMES AND THEIR STORY by Sabine Baring-Gould makes fascinating reading.

     The 432-page soft-cover volume has a preface, appendices, and a surname index. To the book's price of $37.50, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order 9559) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

Kinsearching Home Page