Sunday, November 25, 2012


FaNUK is one of the greatest project I have ever heard about. Let's read from here:

Family Names of the United Kingdom (FaNUK)

A major research project led by University of West of England in Bristol, now in its third year, is set to create the largest ever database of the UK's family surnames. 

The database contains over 320,000 surnames. Many of the rarer names are recent immigrant names. The database aims to complete detailed investigation of the origins, history, and geographical distribution of the 46,000 most recent surnames in the UK by March 2014. It will subsequently be made publicly available and will be of enormous interest to genealogists, family historians, social historians, historical linguists, and indeed anyone interested in learning more about family names.

The research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with a grant worth in total £834,350. The project is being carried out with the technical collaboration of the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University, Brno, in the Czech Republic, the world’s leading experts in building user-friendly editing and browsing tools for very large databases.

The research is being carried out under the direction of Professor Richard Coates at the Bristol Centre for Linguistics at UWE with lead researcher Professor Patrick Hanks, an eminent lexicographer who is a visiting professor at UWE.

This is the largest project in scale and scope ever undertaken in the UK on family names. There are currently approximately 320,000 surnames in Britain - including very common ones such as Miller or Williams - but there are also large numbers of uncommon surnames with a hundred bearers or fewer.

The study does not focus exclusively on names of English and Scottish origin, but also includes names of Irish, Gaelic, Welsh, and Cornish origin as well as Huguenot, and Jewish. Special procedures are being developed for studying recent immigrant names (i.e. those appearing after 1881) such as Indian and Chinese, and a range of Muslim names with the cooperation of overseas consultants.

Using published and unpublished resources dating from the 11th century onwards, a team of researchers with expertise in historical linguistics and onomastics are collecting information about individual names such as when and where they were recorded, and how they have been spelled. This information is being used to give new and detailed explanations of those names. This new knowledge will be far more reliable and up to date than that found in the books on surnames currently available.

The main product of the research will be a publicly accessible database that people can use for a range of information. Each entry has separate fields which include: the meaning of the surname, the linguistic origin, the geographical origin and the distribution at the time of the 1881 census. In addition, there will be information about the social origins of names. For example, it is well known that the earliest surnames of the landholding classes tended - more than those of other classes - to be descriptions or names of places, whilst those of small tenants and serfs included a high proportion of names ending in –s and –son like Roberts and Jackson. Many of the oldest surnames in Britain are of Norman French origin, taken from the family estates in Normandy, for example Sinclair (from one of two places called Saint Clair) and Craker (from Crèvecoeur in Calvados).

Richard Coates explains, “There is widespread interest in family names and their history. Our project employs the most up-to-date evidence and techniques in order to create a more detailed and accurate resource than those currently available. For example, new statistical methods for linking family names to locations will enable us to provide more accurate and detailed origins for names.

“Some names can have origins that are occupational – obvious examples are Smith and Baker; less obvious ones are Beadle, Rutter, and Baxter. Other names can be linked to a place, for example Hill or Green (which related to village greens). Surnames which are 'patronymic' are those which originally enshrined the father's name – such as Jackson, or Jenkinson. There are also names where the origin describes the original bearer such as Brown, Short or Thin.

“I have always been fascinated by names for people, places, and institutions. Surnames are part of our identity, so most people are interested in knowing about their names. My main interest is in the linguistic side, in the language of origin and the original meaning of the names, but this research is interdisciplinary, drawing also on history, family history, place-name study, geography, official statistics, and genetics.

“Our database will describe the origins of names, both in linguistic terms and also how they arose in the first place. By listing the spellings of the name with a date, we will be able to see how names have changed over the years, and in some cases, this will also give us a snapshot of social history and mobility. My own name 'Coates', for example, literally means 'cottages' in Middle English. It is also applied as a place-name, and in my research, I have discovered that 'Cotes' is the name of a small place in my grandfather's ancestral county of Staffordshire, so that's probably where my surname comes from.

“Names still tend to cluster where they originated, so some that originated in the West Country can still be found in numbers in the region today, for example Batten, Clist, Keck, Yeo and Vagg.”

The project is supported by consultants who are the top authorities on names in those languages which have given us our surnames, such as: Old Scandinavian, Anglo-Norman French, Welsh, Cornish, Gaelic, Yiddish, and more recently other languages such as Polish, Chinese, Arabic, Yoruba and Hindi/Urdu.

Family Names of the United Kingdom (FaNUK) is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project, running from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2014.

Principal investigator: Professor Richard Coates
Lead researcher: Proffessor Patrick Hanks
Research Associates: Dr Paul Cullen and Dr Simon Draper (Info is not updated yet. Simon doesn't participate in the project anymore, he was replaced by another historian-mediaevist...)
Research Assistant: Kate Hardcastle
Consultants include: Dr Peter McClure, Dr Kay Muhr, and Dr Matthew Hammond.
Project Coordinator: Deborah Cole
Doctoral Student: Harry Parkin

I am already excited about what we will see in March 2014. As I understood, everybody will get access to the e-database on the Internet. That's great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!