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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree April 2019 > worldwide surname Research

worldwide surname Research

Getting started: the seven steps

The Guild of One-Name Studies has identified seven steps of undertaking a study. The steps do not necessarily have to be taken in order and do not need to be completed before starting the process over again.

Step 1: Collect

The first step is seen as collect, and this does not necessarily mean collect all data from a particular data set or a particular country. It simply means collect, essentially making the first action of what is going to be a long, lifetime and enjoyable project.

Back in the days before the internet, in the Guild’s early existence the best way was to begin by extracting the material from the General Registrar’s Office (GRO) index of birth, marriage and death registrations. The material was held in quarterly submissions of four books per year and extracting the information was time-consuming. It meant travelling to London and heaving large books about. Even then it did not give you the data, for that you had to order the certificate from the GRO, which was costly if you were researching a surname that was a popular one. The internet revolutionised the way we conduct our genealogical research and our one-name efforts.

Remember though, not everything is online! What took perhaps a decade to undertake from the indexes held in London, will now – thanks to the main genealogical providers and FreeBMD – take about 10 minutes! You still need to order the certificate, but essentially collecting the material from the index is quick, cheap (free) and less exhausting!

The material from FreeBMD can be cut and pasted into a spreadsheet, making it easier to track material in England and Wales from 1837 to 1983. Ultimately the material from 1837 will be duplicated in parish registers in the majority of cases, with some variations such as those of Register Office and Non-Conformist marriages.

In this modern age, where you begin your One-Name Study will vary considerably and collecting might not be using material from England and Wales, of course. With the global nature of a one-name study you might start in any country.

Choosing your starting place

This will be dependent on a number of factors:

• Where you are geographically located

• Where the surname has its origins

• The amount of data available.

It might be that you start in more than one place and do so in a strategic manner. It could be that you reside in one country, your surname originates in another, whilst the amount of data available with easy access is in a third country. You choose your starting point. However, it is likely that your starting place will incorporate the geographical location of where your ancestors were.

In the case of the Butcher One-Name Study, the initial focus was two counties in England (Surrey and Sussex), Canada and Australia, as branches of the family had migrated. The study then expanded outwards to include other counties in England and Wales, based upon the extraction from FreeBMD and a few other geographical locations based upon communications with other researchers.

By way of contrast, for the Orlando One- Name Study the focus was on England and Wales, despite the surname being of Italian origin. The reason was that the study began in the late 1980s and access to material was not easy. As I reside in England that was therefore my starting point. I did also focus on Sicily, which is where my particular Orlando line originates, and also widen my remit to include the States of Louisiana, New York and Alabama in the United States, because that is where my particular lines migrated to.

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About Family Tree

Do you know what your surname means and where it's come from? You don't? You've come to the right place. With the April issue of Family Tree we've got a cracking 32 guide to help you learn about your family names. From surname super-sleuth organisation the Guild of One-Name Studies, it's packed with advice to research your family surnames - wherever in the world they come from... Plus - inside the mag - we've got 10 top family history projects to help you organise your research, university research into our ancient 10,000 year old ancestor (he's the great-grandpa of us all) and the tale of an orphan, disinherited and banished into slavery - and his 30 year fight to regain what was rightfully his!