Do the surnames Warren, Warne and Wearne have a shared origin?

It’s generally assumed the surnames Warren and Warne have different origins. The surname dictionaries state that Warren is either from a placename in Normandy or a name for someone living near or working in a game park. Warne is supposed to be from a placename in Devon. The same sources tell us Wearne is a spelling variant of Warne, although some Cornish language enthusiasts claim it (and even Warne) comes from the Cornish word gwern, for alder trees or an alder swamp.

In my The Surnames of Cornwall I plumped for another possibility, suggesting that all of these surnames may originally have stemmed from the first name Waryn. There’s only one problem with this, however. Waren/Waryn/Warin only appeared as a first name in ten parishes in Cornwall in the tax lists of the 1520s/40s, with half of those in just one parish -Wendron – and most of the rest in neighbouring parishes. Undaunted, I note that David Postles in The Surnames of Devon states that Waren was a ‘less usual’ first name in the 1300s, but one that nonetheless gave rise to one of the more common surnames of early sixteenth century Devon – Waren or Warren. Others have claimed that the first name Waren/Waryn may have been transferred from the surname, although this seems unlikely given its early incidence in Devon.

What does the early geography of these names in Cornwall tell us, if anything? In the tax lists of the 1520s/40s we find three parishes with Warne, six with Waren, two with Waryn and three others with both Waren and Waryn. There were no examples of either Warren or Wearne in these lists. Here are the maps for all incidences of each spelling in the parish registers of the 1500s. Do they help us unravel these names? What do you think?

Contrasting Cornish surnames from places

Boswarthack or Boswarthick is a surname that I haven’t yet covered in either book or blog. It comes from a place in Constantine parish spelt Boswodek in 1330 and Bosvathek in 1519. This apparently meant a settlement by a water-course or stream.

In the 1500s the distribution of the name Bosvathek (also spelt occasionally Boswathek) mostly clustered around its point of origin.

It began to be spelt with an <r> as early as the 1580s and this had taken over as the predominant spelling by the 1700s. There were still quite a few families with this surname, as the map below indicates. Yet, by the 1861 census, only two household heads called Boswarthick remained (at Stithians and Perranarworthal – both quite close to its point of origin.)

For contrast, here’s a map of the surname Polglase, a locative name with multiple origins. For a map of Polglase in 1861 see here.

Maps for the surnames Goad and Gribble

Here are a couple of maps for two surnames that first appeared at a relatively late date. Goad is probably a variant spelling of Coad. It was first recorded in 1638 at Menheniot but didn’t start appearing in the registers in any number until the 1670s when it suddenly turned up in multiple locations. Gribell or Grible was found at Sancreed in West Penwith from 1584 although the first record of the name was well to the east, at Bodmin.

You can find maps of these in 1861 for comparison here.

Remember, if you want information on a surname that hasn’t appeared in my book or been a subject of a previous blog do let me know.