Cornish surname detection: three more lesser-found examples

The verb ‘to swig’ is now associated with drinking. This has been suggested as the origin of the surname Swiggs, which could either be a nickname or an occupational name for someone who made drinking vessels. But that’s all guesswork. What is less conjectural is its Cornish geography. The name, as Swigg, had emerged in the Menheniot district, near Liskeard, by the mid-1500s. It didn’t spread far, however. In the eighteenth century Swiggs were still focused on the same district. Apart from the occasional example, Swigg obtained its -s relatively late, for most families after the mid-1700s.

Talling was first spelt as such in the Bodmin area in the 1700s. Before then it was spelt Tallyn or Tallin in mid-Cornwall and Talland or Tallond in the south east. Its presence from Bodmin and Lostwithiel east to St Germans implies that its origin is the placename Talland, near Looe. This was spelt Tallan into the 1500s. Indeed, a John Tallan was living at Talland in 1525. Tallan is Cornish and means a church enclosure on the brow of a hill.

Somewhat more mysterious at first glance is the surname Taskes. However, this also probably stemmed from a placename. By 1861 this family name was entirely restricted to West Penwith. But in the eighteenth century some families named Taskes had been found as far east as Truro and Falmouth. There were no Taskes listed in the 1641 Protestation returns but in the 1570s and 1580s we find the name in parish registers at Sancreed and Madron in the west. The most likely origin is the place now called Taskus at Gwinear, not that far to the east. This was spelt Talscus in 1317 and means a shady hill-brow.

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