Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century

I spent too much money today on reading materials.  I was delighted to find a used copy of The Norfolk Broads A landscape history by Tom Williamson 1997 (Manchester University Press).  I had a copy of this excellent landscape history when it was published, but unfortunately lent it out, and never saw it again.  A brilliant book for tying my mother's East Norfolk ancestors to their ancestral landscape.

The April 2017 edition of Current Archaeology magazine has an interesting article on an excavation of an Iron Age site in Fenland, and is celebrating their 50th anniversary of publication.

The real treasure of today's book shop excavation however, was an old booklet published in 1969 by Leicester University Press in their Department of English Local History Occasional Papers.  It is entitled Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century by R.A McKinley.  Flicking through it's pages on the way home, sitting on the bus, I was well, almost mind blown - as some of the conclusions knocked down some of my preconceptions of my Norfolk ancestry and heritage.  An old, yellowing booklet that I've never heard of, found on a shelf in a second hand book shop in Norwich.

The book draws on surnames recorded in the County of Norfolk, during the 16th Century AD.  It uses as it's sources several returns, and rolls particularly a military survey, and subsidy roll from between 1522 and 1525.  I want to share at least some of the key points from two chapters of "Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century": 1) Surnames derived from localities in Norfolk, and 2) Locative surnames originating outside Norfolk.

1) Surnames derived from localities in Norfolk

  • The chapter begins by discussing the problems of using locative surnames in a study.
  • "The two main sources used for this study list 739 persons bearing locative surnames derived from places within Norfolk.  Of these, only 23 were living at the places from which their names were derived.".
  • A table then shows the distances of the persons (still within the County of Norfolk) with these locative surnames from origin.  23 were still at the place of origin, 81 were still within 5 miles of it, 123 were within 6 - 10 miles away, 239 were 11 - 20 miles away, 151 were 21 - 30 miles away, and 122 lived over 30 miles from the locative place of origin.  However, these are the locative surnames that still remain in Norfolk, that appear to have an origin within the County.  Many more would have crossed county boundaries into Suffolk, Lincolnshire, etc.
  • "It seems probable from this evidence, however, that most Norfolk families must have changed their place of residence at least between the period when surnames became hereditary, and the early sixteenth century.".
  • There was no pattern to suggest a large migration from any one part of the County, to another.

2) Locative surnames originating outside Norfolk

  • "In the two main sources, there are 1,260 persons bearing surnames which can be derived with fair certainty from places in England, but outside Norfolk".
  • The author then discusses possible biases, for example, some parts of England appear to have generated more locative surnames than others.  It also suggests that about a third of all English surnames are locative, and proposes a rough approximation, that this could "be about 2,500 persons of outside origin amongst the total of about 18,000 listed in the two main sources, or rather more than 13 per cent".  This suggests quite a few people had been moving from other parts of England, into Norfolk between the 13th and 15th centuries AD.
  • Where were they from?  The two main contributors were the neighbouring counties of Suffolk and Lincolnshire. Some had simply moved from close to the Norfolk county boundary.   
  • Cambridgeshire, another neighbouring county, for some reason contributed far fewer.  The East Midlands was also, surprisingly, not a major contributor of locative surnames in 16th Century Norfolk.  There were no locative surnames from Wales.
  • Here is another surprise, Yorkshire turned our to be a common origin - equally spread through the three ridings.  Each riding of Yorkshire had contributed about 40 persons in Norfolk with locative surnames.  The author does point out that Yorkshire is a big county, and is particularly rich in locative surnames, however: "it is evident that there must have been considerable movement from Yorkshire to Norfolk.  Yorkshire surnames are distributed throughout Norfolk in the early sixteenth century.  They are not particularly concentrated in ports or coastal areas, and indeed, are as widespread in central Norfolk, well away from the sea, as in other parts of the county.".
  • There was also a notable contribution of locative surnames from NW England - Lancashire, Cumbria, and Westmorland.
  • The distribution of these surnames was by no means urban based.  Yamouth and Norwich had lower concentrations than the average.  These migrations look more rural.
  • There were very few surnames of any origin type that could be safely regarded as Welsh.
  • There were very few surnames of any origin type that could be safely regarded as Scottish.
  • The author then moves on to records of other foreign born aliens.  I am aware of the influx of Dutch and Flemish religious refugees, into the City of Norwich during the early 16th Century, however, here I learn something new.
  • "there was certainly a considerable migration of aliens into Norfolk, and foreign immigrants came to reside in many Norfolk villages, not merely in a few ports or large towns.  In 1436, for example, when many aliens took oaths of allegiance, 146 persons who took oath are noted as living in Norfolk.  This was not the whole number of aliens in Norfolk...".  A list in 1440 for example, lists 192 aliens residing in Norfolk at 62 different places.  The author feels that those 15th Century records understate the real percentage of immigrants living in Norfolk at that time.
  • The Continental immigrants did not bring in many new surnames.  Many had no surname listed, or had adopted local surnames.  For example, immigrants listed at Norwich in 1440, included persons by the surnames Rider, Johnson, Forest, Skynner, Couper, Bush, Goldsmyth, and Glasier.  Some surnames marking their nationality did survive in 16th Century Norfolk, such as French, Ducheman, Briton / Brett (Breton) etc.

Brancaster, a North Norfolk village.

In summary, what this book has taught me today:

  1. Many families, despite our ideas of the dying fuedal system, were moving around East Anglia, and even England between the 13th and 16th centuries.
  2. There were relatively few people in 16th century Norfolk, with origins in Scotland, or Wales, and perhaps few from the nearby East Midlands or Cambridgeshire.  However, there was migration down from Northern England, particularly from Yorkshire, but even from NW England.
  3. There were also migrations, from the nearby Continent, and these migrations (and the above Northern English) migrations were not strictly urban.  They reached many villages.

Origins of the British, Irish, and English

Above photo taken by myself of the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

I've modified this from a post that I made on a DNA forum, in response to people discussing out-dated origin stories, in response to a thread looking at ancestral composition for the English.  There is so much misinformation out there, and few people actually try to look at the latest evidences.

It starts by looking at the key points of a recent Irish study.

Cassidy, Martiniano, Murphy etal Study of Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/2/368.full.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/28/origins-of-the-irish-down-to-mass-migration-ancient-dna-confirms

Key points.

  • Ancient DNA from earlier Neolithic farmers suggests an origin from the Near East.

  • Later DNA from Bronze Age suggests a new population had arrived and dominated, with origins from the Eurasian Steppes, including the present day predominance of Y haplogroup R1b, lactose tolerance, and blue eyes. This displacement event appears to have occurred throughout much of Western Europe. The founder population on the Steppes has been linked to the archaeological population known as the Yamna or Yamnaya.

A background to the Yamna hypothesis to help people understand what the above study supported:

The Yamnaya were a population that existed across the Pontic and Caspian Steppes from what is now Ukraine, to Kazakhistan. They themselves were an admixed population, with ancestry from various different groups of Eurasian hunter-gatherers, and from the ANE (Ancient North Eurasian). They carried a number of successful adaptations, including the use of the wheel, improved selective breeding of horses for both riding and haulage, lactose tolerance, use of horse drawn wheeled carts, and a very successful pastoral based economy revolving around the herding of a number of species of livestock.

They are strongly figured to have carried an Indo-European language into Europe and elsewhere (South and Western Asia). That Indo-European language being the ancestor of the vast majority of modern European languages today. They may have also carried many of the most common haplogroups of modern Europeans, including Y hg R1a, R1b, and some mt hg H types among others.

There is a hypothesis that the earlier peoples of Europe, the Early Neolithic farmers, who had largely descended from early farmers in the Levant / Anatolia, had been suppressed by a number of possible environmental and climatic events. This might have paved the way for such a successful displacement of European populations.

As the descendants of the Yamna swept westwards into Europe during the Copper Age, so they spawned a series of new archaeological cultures including the Corded Ware of Eastern and Central Europe, and the Bell Beaker culture of Western Europe.

The Bell Beaker culture spread from Central Europe to the Western Atlantic Seaboard, and from Portugal up to Scotland. Classic artifacts include archer burials in round barrows, the bell beaker ware pottery, round scrapers, and barbed and tanged arrowheads. It was the dominant culture of Early Bronze Age Europe.

One suggestion is that it spawned the later Iron Age Celtic cultures, including the classic Western Atlantic Seaboard Celtic Culture. This culture may have simply evolved locally and through trade links along that seaboard.

The Irish study above supports the Yamnaya hypothesis. It supports displacement during the Early Bronze Age, and that the present day, fairly homogeneous population of Ireland, largely descends from Copper Age Eurasian Steppe pastoralists.

Okay, so what if we apply that also to the late prehistoric British populations? Scottish and West British today appear to have a close genetic distance to the Irish. How about the lowland SE British? It might be the case, that they had fresh admixture, exchanged with the Continent, and particularly with the expanding Germanic cultures. These events could have occurred even during late prehistory.

Now People of the British Isles (POBI) Study 2015:

http://www.peopleofthebritishisles.org/nl6.pdf

This genetic study looked at the British Isles including Northern Ireland, but excluding the Republic of Ireland. It tested a large sample group of present day British with known local ancestry.

Key points.

  • Orkney had the most distinctive population, with a known high percentage of Norse ancestry.

  • The Welsh were distinct from the English. However, they were the most diverse group, with a clear division between the North Welsh and South Welsh. Cornwall was also distinctive from English.

  • Northern Ireland clusters with Scottish.

  • There was no homogeneous shared British “Celtic” population. The Scottish, North Welsh, South Welsh, and Cornish being quite distinct from each other.

  • The South-East British (most of the English) were surprisingly homogeneous, although the boundaries of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms could still be distinguished.

  • The Continental Anglo-Saxon contributiion to present day English people appeared to be circa 10% to 40%. This contradicts Bede's claims of a genocide. The English descend more from earlier British populations than they do from Anglo-Saxon immigrants.

  • Although the Norwegian Viking contribution to Orkney was distinctive, the Danish contribution to Eastern England could not be detected. This may be because of the close genetic distance between Danish Viking and some earlier Anglo Saxon settlers makes it impossible to see.

  • Although there was no “Celtic Fringe”, the Welsh appear to be closest to the late prehistoric British population.

  • Any Iberian contribution appears to be tiny and insignificant.

  • There appeared to be a contribution in Southern Britain, particularly in Cornwall, from a population shared today by the North French. This contribution appears to have occurred during late prehistory and is historically unknown.

Okay, so that is suggesting a diversity across the British Isles that extends into Prehistory. A key finding to this thread is that it found the English to be an admixed population, with earlier British ancestry dominating Anglo Saxon ancestry from the Continent.

Finally, I think it is worthwhile bringing up another recent study:

Iron Age and Anglo Saxon Genomes from Eastern England. Schiffels, Haak, etal. 2015.

This qualitative study focused on ancient DNA from a number of Iron Age and Anglo Saxon cemeteries in the Cambridge area of SE England, referenced against modern populations.

Key points.

  • The East English derive 38% of their ancestry from Anglo-Saxon immigrants

  • The closest genetic distances on the Continent between the Anglo Saxon settlers and present day Europeans was to the Dutch and Danish.

  • They found evidence of admixture and intermarrying. Individuals with both Iron Age British, and Anglo Saxon ancestry.

  • People of Iron Age British ancestry were adopting and embracing Anglo-Saxon culture and grave goods.

  • The richest graves were of local Iron Age British ancestry (with Anglo Saxon cultural artifacts). The poorest graves were recent Anglo-Saxon arrivals.

My conclusion:

  • We have to be careful about who we regard as the Celts. A Celtic culture did exist, but it wasn’t necessarily brought to the British Isles and Ireland by an Iron Age people. It may have developed on the Western Atlantic Seaboard from earlier Bronze Age peoples.

  • Those Bronze Age peoples, predominantly descended, from Eurasian Steppe Pastoralists, that had swept across Europe, bringing innovations. They are the oldest peoples of Ireland and the British Isles, but they did not form a homogeneous Celtic Fringe. There must be more to it.

  • The Anglo-Saxon event in SE Britain was a major and significant migration. However, it was not the genocide of Bede's claims. Hengist and Horsa were clearly mythological origin characters akin to Romulus and Remus.

  • The modern day English are an admixed population. They have a foot both in earlier British ancestry, and in Anglo-Saxon / North Sea migration.

Where do we come from?

I can answer that now.  A set of maps that demonstrates the geographic spread of my direct ancestry back seven generations, to the early 18th Century.

I used a cropped relief map of England from Wikimedia Commons.  Attribution is: By Nilfanion [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

The red dots mark the locations of each ancestor, preferably a birth or baptism place, if not, then the next best provenance.

Grandparent Generation

All four ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  All four are located in the county of Norfolk, in the East of England.  These ancestors were born between 1900 and 1910 in England only.  They represent two generations back from myself or my siblings.

Great Grandparent Generation

All eight ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  Seven are located in Norfolk, in the East of England.  These ancestors were born between 1859 and 1885 in England only.  They represent three generations back from myself or my siblings.

Great Great Grandparent Generation

All sixteen ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  They are concentrated in Norfolk again, but with single representatives each in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, London, and Oxfordshire.  These ancestors were all born between 1830 and 1865 in England only.  They represent four generations back from myself or my siblings.


Great Great Great Grandparent Generation

Thirty of the thirty two ancestors of this generation are represented on this map.  The other two were undeclared fathers.  The main cluster is still in Norfolk, with a particularly dense cluster in the east of the county, around the River Yare.  Outside of East Anglia, I also had ancestors at this generation in Oxfordshire, London, and Lincolnshire.  These ancestors were all born between 1794 and 1837 in England.  They represent five generations back from myself or my siblings.

Great Great Great Great Grandparent Generation

Now the paper ancestry starts to fade away, with only 42 provenance ancestors out of 64 biological ancestors for this generation (seven generations back).  Therefore the map might lose some detail.  None-the-less, it seems to show the pattern settling, with most of my ancestry only deepening in Norfolk, and strongly clustering around the River Yare in East Norfolk.  Almost entirely restricted to East Anglia, except for a few emerging clusters in Wessex.

Surnames

The recorded surnames of my known direct ancestors are overwhelmingly of Medieval English form: 

Brooker, Curtis, Smith, Thacker, Tovell, Tammas, Hewitt, Lawn, Peach, Goffen, Norton, Barber, Baxter, Ellis, Hagon, Porter, Becket, Shawers, Key, Rose, Ford, Daynes, Quantrill, Crutchfield, Freeman, Larke, Waters, Ransby, Ling, Rose, Riches, Snelling, Merrison, Cossey, Shepherd, Durran, Edney, Hedges, Dove, Britiff, Harris, Tibnum, Mitchells.Briggs, Nicholes

The surnames Tovell, Thacker, Daynes, Ransby, and Hagon - all from my mother's Norfolk side, could hint at an Anglo-Danish influence.

Fan Chart up to most recent six generations:

Earlier Origins

The years and generations represented on the maps pretty much cover the past three hundred years of industrialisation and globalisation.  Much earlier, I'd expect less movement.  Therefore I feel that it would be safe to assume, that back to at least the medieval period, that my ancestry was concentrated in East Anglia, with a secondary patch in the Wessex area of England.  The recent POBA (People of the British Isles) 2015 study, suggested that the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms continued to act as localised gene pools into the high medieval period.

Before that, we had a period of immigration waves into lowland Britain.  The POBI study, supported a number of other recent studies based on genetic profiling, archaeology, and place-name study, to suggest that Anglo-Saxon immigration accounted for no more than 30% to 40% of lowland British DNA, and that the majority of English heritage had existed in the British Isles previous - perhaps to influxes of genes during the Bronze Age or earlier.  Genetic profiling of human remains in Cambridgeshire, of people identified as 5th Century immigrant (Anglo-Saxon), suggests the closest present day profile as Dutch or / and Danish.  The kingdom of East Anglia identified with the Angles ethnicity, that historically provenance their origins to the region of Angeln, on the Danish and German borders on the Baltic coast.  However how elites identify their origin, is often not based in fact, neither is their origin always shared by their subjects.

East Anglia fell to the Danish army, and subsequently to Danelaw control periodically during the late 9th to early 11th centuries.  Some parts of East Norfolk such as Flegg, are particularly rich in Old Danish place-names.  POBA 2015 failed to identify a Danish presence with their genetic profiling, but the place-name evidence and historical sources contradict this finding.  The 7th to 9th centuries saw a slight reduction in sea levels, that enabled the draining of new lands in East Anglia for settlement.  The same districts are rich in Old Danish place-names, strongly suggesting immigrant settlement.

Conclusion

POBI 2015 suggests that I have ancestors that have lived in lowland Britain, since at least the Bronze Age, and most likely, much earlier.  That very likely ties me to lowland British ethnicities of the Bronze and Iron Ages.  The dominant power in East Anglia during the Later Iron Age was the Iceni federation, famous for the Boudiccan revolt against Rome.

POBI 2015 and other studies, suggests an Anglo-Saxon immigration that accounts for 30% - 40% of English ancestry.  My strongest cluster is concentrated in the river valleys of East Norfolk, exactly the sort of landscape that I would expect any North Sea immigrants during the 4th to 11th centuries to concentrate.  Therefore, I would expect a high probability of actual Anglo-Saxon immigrant ancestry (based on recent studies, from the Netherlands area, and perhaps North Germany / Denmark).  Based on place-name evidence the area was later heavily influenced by the Danish.

When I receive my 23andMe DNA results, based on their genetic profiling of Y chromosome, mtDNA, and on general autosomal calculators, in their ancestry results, I would expect to see overwhelming British & Irish percentage.  However, will their autosome crunchers also predict a percentage in the Scandinavian, French & German, and North-West European 23andMe categories?  As autosomal DNA is so random, what will the results display?

23andMe

Still waiting for the results.  23andMe are not giving a very rapid service.  For starters, I received a sample kit with a Netherlands return address.  That apparently was a holding depot, where they stockpile some of the European samples, so that they can ship them to the USA cheaper.  My sample reached a US lab, but continues to sit in a queue.  It has now been 37 days since I sent my registered sample off, and the box is still in a queue, waiting to be tested.  Other customers are reporting some long waits further down the process in quality control.  I expect a long wait.