Here are three Cornish surnames. Their early distributions, clustered in one district, is the classic sign of a toponym, a surname that has its origin in a specific placename. But things may be more complicated than they seem. Benallack is a placename that turns up in three Cornish parishes. It comes from the Cornish word … Continue reading Three obviously Cornish toponyms. Or are they?
Sometimes the surname dictionaries assure us that two similarly spelt names have entirely different origins. The older approach was based on seeking the earliest form of the name and then interpreting its meaning by reference to the languages of the time. This copied the methods of placename studies. However, sometimes the fluidity of surname spellings … Continue reading Maps and theories
Does the presence of patronymic surnames (surnames derived from first names) tell us anything about the last days of the traditional Cornish language? I have argued elsewhere that the distribution of the most common surnames in nineteenth century Cornwall – Williams, Thomas and Richards – offers a good indication of the geography of the language … Continue reading Patronyms and the Cornish language
For some obscure reason the most visited page on this website has consistently been 18th century surnames by parish. To accompany this I've spent the Christmas period compiling a list of surnames for each parish in the mid-17th century and this can now be consulted here. In 1642 across Cornwall over half of men (57%) … Continue reading Cornish surnames in the 17th century
Many surnames originally stemmed form first names. In Cornwall Bennet or Benet was a frequent male name in the medieval period. It came orginally from the saint's name Benedict, shortened to Benoit by the French and introduced to the British Isles by the Normans. The name was widely found as a surname in Cornwall by … Continue reading Surnames from first names
Of the three names below Bastard most obviously originated in a nickname. As might be expected, it was found over a wide area in the 1500s. Bariball probably developed from the name Barbarel, introduced by the Normans and present in the 1300s in Devon, where it's been suggested it was from a nickname. Or did … Continue reading Three surnames in Cornwall from nicknames. Perhaps.
Several surnames are supposed to have derived from the first name Bartholomew. These include Bartle, a short form, and Bartlett, a double diminutive. Actually, the double diminutive seems to have established itself first, with several examples of Bartlett in the 1500s strongly implying two points of origin in south east Cornwall and north east of … Continue reading Unravelling a group of Cornish surnames
Barkle in the 1500s was a mid-Cornwall surname. Look out for a coming map of the associated name Bartle in this same period. Or does the spelling Barkla suggest an origin in Barclay? Barnicoat was more widely spread, its geography perhaps suggesting a sea-borne route from its Devonian origins. Barrett was common across mid and … Continue reading More early Cornish surname geographies
The earliest spelling of what became Banfield or Bamfield makes it unlikely to have meant bean field originally. A Cornish language name meaning wheaten bread ... From barbarian? Or more likely Barbara.
One surname you won’t meet in today’s Cornwall is Bodrugan. The name has its origin in a place overlooking St Austell Bay near Mavagissey. It means Rygan’s farmstead and was acquired by the family that had emerged as the owners of the local manor by the 1200s. By the 1320s Otto Bodrugan was one of … Continue reading Who were the Bodrugans?