Features / UWE Bristol

Surname dictionary made free to all during lockdown

By lowie trevena, Monday May 18, 2020

Originally published in 2016, a surname dictionary compiled by researchers at UWE Bristol has been made available for free for the next week.

The online dictionary, which explains the meanings and origins of more than 45,000 surnames from the UK and Ireland, has been made free to access as a way to bring families closer together during lockdown.

A team of researchers at UWE Bristol spent four years studying tens of thousands of surnames before their research was published by Oxford University Press.

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There is normally a paywall to access the dictionary, which has been removed for a week so that people can find out where their surnames came from.

“This amazing database covers tens of thousands of family names and was made possible by careful and painstaking research over many years,” said Mike Collins, the head of public engagement at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, who funded the original research.

“It feels appropriate to give people free access to this searchable database for a week. At a time when many family members are apart, it will help bring people together as they discuss the biographies of their surnames.”

The dictionary includes every surname that has more than 100 bearers, and all those that had more than 20 bearers in the 1881 census. Every entry includes a range of details on the surname, including different spelling, an explanation of its origins and its geographical spread.

“There seems to be perpetual interest in where surnames come from,” adds Richard Coates, a professor emeritus of onomastics at UWE Bristol, who led on the research. “It can be an excellent way of helping people begin to trace their family histories.”

Find out more at www.oxfordreference.com

Main photo: UWE Bristol

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