A ONE NAME STUDY,
another way of researching family history
This article first appeared in
The Journal of the Guild of One Name Studies and is now amended by
A One Name Study is the
research in depth and collection of all occurrences of a name worldwide as
opposed to the more familiar research of a particular person or
descendants of one person or couple.
It may sound difficult or
complicated but it isn't really. The people who undertake One Name studies
are enthusiasts of course - aren't we all, and in many instances they may
organise and run their "name" family history society. But you can be a One
Name researcher without undertaking a family society.
What does it mean to begin
a One Name study?
A One Name Study is the research of a particular name, not necessarily
your own - perhaps your husband or wife's line, or even no one related to
you at all. The collection together and linking up of all persons with
your chosen name would, in an ideal world , result in the finite family
tree with all the connections made and verified.
Is there a great deal of
work involved for a common name?
There can be: no one has
started Smith for example, and the current registered names are selective
and quite rare with some having less than a thousand records.
Nevertheless, some people have started work on larger studies with world
populations in the tens of thousands and more.
What advantage is there in
a One Name Study?
There is a need for
commitment to undertake a study as it has a much wider scope and opens so
many channels of communication with other researchers. If you do research
a blood line you will inevitably come into contact with cousins. They may
be several generations removed but they are cousins nonetheless. It is
challenging to be an authority on your name and very rewarding to be able
to help people find their family roots. It is also totally absorbing, as
you will invariably go off at a tangent intrigued by the surrounding
history and events that influenced your family, perhaps explaining why
they migrated or emigrated when they did.
It is the ideal companion
to researching your Clan. All clans have their septs - the smaller family
groups associated with a clan. Why not research the family and sept
origins as part and parcel of a One Name study ?
A One Name study is also an
alternative when you reach the genealogists "brick wall". When you have
gone as far as you can on your direct blood lines and just cannot find
Uncle Fred who "went to America" and joined the Gold Rush. It provides the
opportunity to continue with your interest in history and always with the
hope that one day the brick wall will finally crumble to reveal your
How do I go about starting
a One Name Study?
It is important to have
some idea of how many people there might be - how rare is your chosen
name. A look at telephone directories for the whole country at your local
library is a good start or visit some websites that have the phone book on
line such as White Pages. In the USA it is possible to find out how many
of a given surname there are by visiting the US Census Bureau facility at
Another useful guide for
Scottish families is the Scottish General Records facility where the
number of persons within the relevant records can be ascertained. This is
What is meant by
There are two organisations
that register One Name studies. The purpose is to provide a network for
similarly minded researchers and a reference list that can be checked to
see if anyone is researching that name. A particular name or spelling of a
name is only registered once, but if already registered your offer of help
may be welcomed with open arms by that person. Registration is therefore a
resource for any family historian to use and may provide a shortcut for
your researches. Membership of an organisation carries with it the
obligation to reply to enquiries relating to your registered name (Self
addressed stamped envelope or two International Reply Coupons should be
included with the request ).
I want to find out more ?
You can register a name
with the Guild of One Name Studies (G.O.O.N.S.), an international society
with a worldwide membership. Write to:
Guild of One Name
Box G, Charterhouse
London EC1M 7BA
Or you can visit the
G.O.O.N.S website at
You can write to The
American Association of One Name Studies at:
American Association of One Name Studies
2509 Placid Place
Virginia Beach, VA 23456-3743
The names ORR, ORE, OR and
ORRE were at one time registered with the Guild of One Name Studies.
I was their owner. I found that the task was too great for the time
available and reluctantly decided to drop the collection of modern (post
1900) families in the USA. I continue to accumulate some records in
searchable databases as well as donated family trees, and GEDcom files.
Enquiries are cross referenced so that later matches can be advised to the
original enquirer. I am willing to search my database, now exceeding
100,000 records, including my books, gravestone inscriptions and fiche for
Scotland and Ireland, and to give advice when I can. An exchange of
information is always welcome. I can be reached at
here to read more about my extensive research on the Orr family name.