Genuki homepage
Genuki WES homepage Genuki contents page Go to genealogical information for Westmorland as a whole
GENUKI England Genuki contents Information for all Westmorland

CUMBRIAN NAMES

Directories are a valuable source of information on individuals. However, in addition, they are also a useful source of data on surname frequency. For instance, Parson and White[1] gives 21,000 names of individuals resident in Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness in 1829. Analysis of the surnames gives the following table of frequencies:

"Cumbrian" Surnames in 1829

1. WILSON

2.21%

11. NICHOLSON

0.89% 21. PEARSON

0.57%

2. ROBINSON

1.66%

12. RICHARDSON

0.82% 22. TYSON

0.54%

3. THOMPSON

1.56%

13. BROWN

0.81% 23. WILKINSON

0.52%

4. ATKINSON

1.45%

14. ARMSTRONG

0.76% 24. SIMPSON

0.49%

5. JACKSON

1.35%

15. SMITH

0.73% 25. FO(R)STER

0.48%

6. BELL

1.29%

16. WALKER

0.71%    

7. HODGSON

1.20%

17=. TAYLOR

0.69%    

8. GRAHAM

1.16%

17= SCOTT

0.69%    

9. DIXON

1.07%

19. CLARK(E)

0.66%    

10. HARRISON

1.06%

20. WATSON

0.58%    

Although inclusion in the directory is restricted to gentry and trades people it should give an approximation of the distribution of names in the population as a whole.

It is noticeable that the top 25 names account for nearly quarter (23.9%) of all Cumbrians. Thus for a child born this year; if all his ancestors were from the present-day county and we assume 250 great x4 grandparents were alive in 1829 - we could expect statistically that over 60 of the names would be on the above list. In fact there should be 5 or 6 WILSONs.

You can calculate what proportion of your own Cumbrian ancestors had surnames on the list, to give an indication of whether you are "unlucky" with the number of "common" surnames you have to deal with. In my own case I have 28 names (including 3 different? branches of HARRISONs) so statistically I might expect 7 from the top 25. In fact there are 14!

Analysis of the Mannix and Whellan directory2 for Cumberland only in 1847 gives a different top 10 and is presented in the following table (with comparisons to the previous analysis).

Cumberland Surnames in 1847

  Cumberland 1847 Cumbria 1829 Ratio

1. GRAHAM

1.65%

(1.16%)

1.42

2. WILSON

1.64%

(2.21%)

0.74

3. BELL

1.60%

(1.29%)

1.24

4. ROBINSON

1.56%

(1.66%)

0.94

5. HODGSON

1.31%

(1.20%)

1.09

6. THOMPSON

1.30%

(1.56%)

1.66

7. ARMSTRONG

1.24%

(0.76%)

1.63

8. BROWN

1.11%

(0.81%)

1.37

9. JACKSON

1.06%

(1.35%)

0.79

10. DIXON

0.97%

(1.47%)

0.65

It can be seen that the top 10 is markedly different. For instance GRAHAM, the most common surname in Cumberland, is only the eighth most common in Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness.

As the 2 surveys are less than a generation apart it seems reasonable that the 2 sets of data can be compared. Looking at the ratios it can be seen that the names THOMPSON (1.66), ARMSTRONG (1.63) and GRAHAM (1.42) are concentrated more in Cumberland than in Westmorland or Furness. Two of those names are 'Border' names, so might be expected to be more common in Cumberland.

Other names are more common in 'Cumbria' as a whole than in Cumberland. For instance DIXON (though common in Cumberland) is presumably even more common in Westmorland and/or Furness.

A comparable ranking of surnames has been produced by D. Lowis3 for North Westmorland based on the 1851 census. These figures should be more accurate than those from a directory as they cover the whole population. In the table below the figures have been converted to to percentages for ease of comparison.

 

North Westmorland Surnames in 1851

  N Westmorland Cumbria Ratio

1. ATKINSON

2.11% (1.45%)

1.46

2. THOMPSON

1.97% (1.56%)

1.26

3. ROBINSON

1.91% (1.66%)

1.15

4. RICHARDSON

1.80% (0.82%)

2.2

5. NICHOLSON

1.61% (0.89%)

1.81

6. JACKSON

1.59% (1.35%)

1.18

7. WILSON

1.35% (2.21%)

0.61

8. SIMPSON

0.95% (0.49%)

1.94

9. HARRISON

0.94% (1.06%)

0.89

HODGSON

0.94% (1.20%)

0.78

The most striking first impression is that all names are patronymic i.e. -SON (c.f. 6/10 for Cumberland). Compared against the figures for Cumbria as a whole it can be seen that in particular RICHARDSON (2.20), SIMPSON (1.94) and NICHOLSON (1.81) are strong (North) Westmorland names.

On the other hand WILSON (0.61) is comparatively under-represented in N. Westmorland, and interestingly also for Cumberland (0.74) as well. This would seem to suggest that the name is particularly common in Furness or South Westmorland. Estimates can be made using the above data by making assumptions for the relative populations for the different regions within Cumbria. This gives the top 3 names as WILSON (3.7%), ATKINSON (2.6%) and THOMPSON (2.0%). Obviously, counting the names directly in directories for Furness and South Westmorland would be much more accurate.

1. Parson & White. The principal inhabitants of Cumberland & Westmorland. 1829.

Alphabetic index compiled by R Grigg.

2. Mannix & Welland. The principal inhabitants of Cumberland & Westmorland. 1847.

Alphabetic index compiled by R Grigg.

3. Lowis D. Westmorland Names. CFHS Newletter 47 (May 1988)

 

(c) Dave Huddart 1997