15 March 2013

The Surnames Handbook: A Guide to Family Name Research in the 21st Century

The Surnames Handbook:  A Guide to Family Name Research in the 21st Century by Debbie Kennett.  Forward by Derek A. Palgrave, the president of the prestigious Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS)

   Is your genealogy stuck in the U.S.?  Colonial America?  Australia?  New Zealand?
   Are you unable to cross the pond?
   Are you doing research on a single name?
   Do you need testers for your DNA Project?
   Could you be at a dead-end due to surname spelling changes?

Answering YES to any of these questions and many others makes Debbie Kennett’s latest book, The Surnames Handbook:  A Guide to Family Name Research in the 21st Century required reading. Debbie’s work could be the strategy that fit your needs!

Even though this is written for the British audience, Debbie includes information from many other counties, and the material and methods here are beneficial to all genealogists and genetic genealogist.  Although written with the underlying suggestion of doing a one-name study, her approach is necessary in forging backward in time and for solving any of the above questions. Even if you do not plan to conduct a surname study, this source can help you pin-point where your surname in the U.K. could have originated or where it existed at a particular time.

Debbie begins with a history of surnames and explains the attempts to classify them over the past centuries.  She then clarifies the differences between variants and deviants which is greatly important to know when you are hunting for an ancestor’s record and find nothing.  Other chapters discuss surname mapping, surname frequency, surname origins pre-1600s, and more.  She covers the use of DNA and the benefits of One-Name Studies.  The span of the resources is amazing: information and websites on old handwriting and dating systems, parish and county boundary changes, various records which are online, and details about various records and when where they existed.  She explains the reasons for creating the Pipe Rolls, Lay Subsidies Rolls, the Hundred Rolls, the Feet of Fines, the Hearth Tax, and many more. I cannot begin to list all the important and useful information.

 For those of us who know little about records in the U.K., the historical background and lists of websites and documents given in this resource is invaluable.  What others have spent years learning, you can access quickly through all the websites she has mentioned. For many Americans the information on medieval resources is very valuable, and most American genealogists do not understand the British record keeping system over the centuries. This book helps you quickly learn about the records in the U.K.

Debbie’s book bears reading multiple times as it is so full of great information (am I repeating myself! LOL) .  So much so that one needs to take notes or tag pages for a revisit. Know that the electronic versions have hot links for all the websites she mentions so you may wish to order that version. This book should be used as a workbook to explore your surnames and to locate living potential DNA testers. It suggests reconstructing families of a rare surname or those in one area to determine if all the people are related and to obtain probably testers for DNA when you bring those lineages to the present. DNA testing living people who are in the area where your ancestors were and with the same surname can find you actual cousins and help establish your roots in the motherland.

With so many resources, my plans are to turn to Appendix A:  Genealogy Websites and to go systematically through the online resources for my Ogan One-Name Study and to reconstruct my family surnames in the U.K. for my DNA surname projects (Derby, Doolin, Lamson, Ogan, Talley, and  Stubblefield) in order to find potential DNA testers in the U.K. in time for the next Who Do You Think You Are? Live conference and to invite them to attend so I can give them a free DNA kit in hopes some will match my lines.  Then to plow through my other ancestral surnames.  Then there is the linguists resources, the Place-Name Resources, etc.  Oh, to have a few clones to help!

Frankly, this book is a must for all genealogists and genetic genealogists!
Order it from Amazon.com for your Kindle or in paperback or for your Nook at Barnes and Noble.

Enjoy....I know I did!
15 Mar 2013

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