Three obviously Cornish toponyms. Or are they?

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?

Patronyms and the Cornish language

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

Unravelling a group of Cornish surnames

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