Definition of a One Name Study

A one-name (or surname) study is a project researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree (ancestors of one person) or descendancy (descendants of one person or couple).

The Guild published “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” The Art of One-Name Studies in 2012. A copy of which is available here.

This explores and gives guidance on following the seven activities involved in a One-Name study.

  • Data Collection
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Responding to Enquiries
  • Publicising your Study
  • Publication of Results
  • Preserving your Study
This study evolved from the need to fill in the gaps in mine and my Husbands family tree. We both have an issue with unknown Great Grandparents. This led to us both taking DNA tests to try and fill in the gaps. Through this we met a group of like minded people. Just recently (29th November 2017) it became apparent that we could all possibly be linked through the same surname and it dawned on me that the search was turning into a one name study.

The hope is that by doing this we will fill in all our gaps, find all… ok most of our connections.

The plan is to start with the UK births and build the families outwards and hopefully coming across the other names that will connect is to our many cousins, spread over the many corners of the world.

A One-Name Study Plan

Stage Suggested activities for a one-name study plan Notes
1 Identification of the frequency and distribution of the surname
Data Collection
2 Collect initial data on births, marriages and deaths
3 Collect all references in the International Genealogical Index (referring back to original)
4 Search all available census records or census substitutes such as electoral rolls, starting on the most recent and working backwards
5 Collect all entries from major published Will indexes
6 Search available marriage indexes
7 Collect all burial records
8 Collect Monumental Inscriptions
9 Stages 2 to 8 will be undertaken for your main country (probably where you live). Repeat the data collection activities for all other countries where your study name exists.
10 Examine other major sources of data, initially concentrating your efforts on indexed sources and in the areas that will give the most returns
11 Examine original records such as parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials
12 Repeat stages 10 and 11 for all other countries where your study name exists
13 Submit your one-name study data to the Guild Marriage Index, Guild Scottish Index, and Guild Probate Index as appropriate, to assist other members in finding connections
14 Request searches from the Guild Marriage Challenges as they are offered
15 Use the Guild Marriage Index and/or Marriage Locator to identify the location of marriages
Data Collection
16 Undertake family reconstructions using the data collected (this is unlikely to be feasible for large studies)
17 Analyse the distribution and relative frequency of your study name in different places and across time
18 Analyse the distribution patterns for different name variants
19 Analyse missing data (such as a marriage church) to see if the data can be found
20 Consider setting up a DNAproject to connect family groups and prove the connections between name variants
Data synthesis
21 Assess the possible meaning of your study name
22 Assess the origin of the study name based on distribution and migration analysis
23 Identify how and where name variants arose
24 Identify the main patterns of distribution change, including erníaratìon and immigration
25 See what other conclusions can be drawn from your data - such as longevity, infant mortality, number of pregnancies, social conditions, impact of extended families, changes in death rates over time
Store Your Data
26 Consider how you want to store your one-name study data: manually or on a computer
27 Design your data structure to organise your data - see JOONS, October 2008, Vol. 9 No. 12 p.10, Digitisation for One-Namers, to see an example of a data structure
Publicise your one-name study Publicise your one-name study
28 Consider publicising your one-name study in as many places as possible
29 Consider creating a website or blog for your one-name study
30 As a minimum, use the Guild's Profile facility to help you get online
Publishing your one-name study Publishing your one-name study
31 Write articles about your study for the Guild Journal and other genealogy magazines
32 Consider writing your own ONS Newsletter, perhaps as part of a one-name Society
33 Consider writing a book on your one-name study
Safeguard and preserve your one-name study
34 Routinely back up your one-name study data
35 Consider digitising all essential paper material from your one-name study
36 Consider depositing copies of your one-name study with appropriate organisations
37 Make arrangements for the preservation of your one-name study for when you are no longer able to continue your research work or when you die
Guild of One-Name Studies, April 2012
The Art of One-Name Studies






Membership is available from £18.00 per year – The Croft One-Name Study has access to further resources by being a registered study.

The most valuable asset is the wealth of experience and expertise available from a really friendly group of people.

Surname Registration is not a condition of membership.

Details of joining here




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