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How to start a one-name study

Our family surnames are packed with stories, clues and connections about our roots. Here surname guru Julie Goucher explains how to research a surname and shed new light on your family’s past

Setting the scene

For most people, starting a surname study or one-name study stems from their own ancestry - a family name that piques your curiosity. It is either an unusual surname, perhaps a ‘foreign’ one, or one where there is a brick wall, where focusing on the surname is an opportunity to attempt to dismantle that obstacle.

I have written previously in Family Tree about my own Orlando study. This is an example of a name that comes under the ‘foreign’ label, because it is Italian, and therefore likely to be a small study, at least in England. My Orlando study started in 1988, when there were no online resources and gathering information was not as ‘easy’ as it is now.

Take a course

Learning the methodology of a study is time well spent - providing solid foundations to your research. The three Pharos courses on onename studies are all taught by Julie. Students are from all corners of the globe and the courses are conducted online:

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About Family Tree

Get smarter at tracking down those births, marriages & deaths with our step-by-step guide to using the latest online indexes. Join in with part 1 of our surname supersleuth series and unlock the family history clues hidden in your family name. Learn how to use DNA Painter and piece together the story of your genes. Find out about family history software to make your research so much more organised: an introduction to the key programs. And don’t forget to check out the Family Tree Live programme of family history lectures & workshops this spring. Find your pull-out guide inside! Hurry – some are fully booked already! Find inspiration, information and great ideas to help you trace your roots today with Family Tree...