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Help and advice for Cumbrian Names 2

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Cumbrian Names 2

An idea of the present-day frequencies of surnames in Cumbria can be gained by counting names in a recent telephone directory [1]. As 88% of households have a telephone [2], this should be a good approximation. However unfortunately in Cumbria, the county boundary does not coincide exactly with the area covered by the 1990 telephone directory. Notwithstanding this, the top 20 names and their percentages are given below (together with the positions and percentages for the same names in Parson & White's Directory [3] for 1829 for comparison).

"Cumbrian" Surnames in 1990

    % rank in 1829 % in 1829

1

WILSON

1.02%

1

(2.21%)

2

SMITH

1.00%

15

(0.73%)

3

THOMPSON

0.70%

3

(1.56%)

4

ROBINSON

0.69%

2

(1.66%)

5

GRAHAM

0.68%

8

(1.16%)

6

BELL

0.66%

6

(1.29%)

 

TAYLOR

0.66%

17

(0.69%)

8

BROWN

0.64%

13

(0.81%)

9

JACKSON

0.62%

9

(1.35%)

10

HODGSON

0.50%

7

(1.20%)

11

DIXON

0.48%

9

(1.07%)

12

WALKER

0.48%

16

(0.71%)

13

CLARK(E)

0.45%

19

(0.66%)

14

ATKINSON

0.45%

4

(1.45%)

15

ARMSTRONG

0.44%

14

(0.76%)

16

HARRISON

0.43%

10

(1.06%)

17

WATSON

0.38%

17

(0.58%)

18

SCOTT

0.38%

20

(0.58%)

19

RICHARDSON

0.36%

12

(0.82%)

20

WILKINSON

0.34%

23

(0.52%)

WILSON is the most common name in 1990 and 1829, and 19 of the top 20 are common to both lists. However there are noticable differences in the order. In particular SMITH is the 2nd most common name in 1990 but was only 15th in 1829. On the other hand, ATKINSON declined from being the 4th most common to the 14th.

Comparing the percentages between 1829 and 1990, we can see that, with the exception of SMITH, all have fallen on average to about half their previous level. This might be explained by considering that the Cumbrian names are being "diluted" presumably by people with "non-Cumbrian" names moving into the county. This would be particularly true of the name SMITH which is the most common name in the UK with a frequency of approximately 1.5%

A ranked listing of surnames that have declined in popularity between 1829 and 1990 is given below. The number is the ratio of the 2 percentages (for 1990 and 1829)

 

ATKINSON

0.31

 

TYSON

0.34

 

NICHOLSON

0.37

 

PEARSON

0.4

 

HARRISON

0.41

 

ROBINSON

0.42

 

HODGSON

0.42

 

RICHARDSON

0.44

 

THOMPSON

0.45

 

DIXON

0.45

 

WILSON

0.46

 

JACKSON

0.46
 

BELL

0.51

 

FO(R)STER

0.52

 

SCOTT

0.55

 

ARMSTRONG

0.58

 

GRAHAM

0.59

 

SIMPSON

0.61

 

WILKINSON

0.65

 

WATSON

0.66

 

WALKER

0.68

 

CLARK(E)

0.68
 

BROWN

0.79

 

TAYLOR

0.96

 

SMITH

1.37

It is very noticable that all names that have declined to less than half are patronymic (i.e. -SON). The bottom 3 names are clearly very common surnames nationally. It would therefore seem plausible to suggest that the above list gives an indication of those surnames which are genuinely "Cumbrian" i.e. occurring commonly in Cumberland, Westmorland or Furness, but not necessarily elsewhere. This theory will be tested in the next article (if the Editor permits) by comparing Cumbrian frequency lists with lists from elsewhere.

1. British Telecom. The phone book. Cumbria and North Lancashire. 1990

2. Central Statistical Office. Annual Abstract of Statistics. 1992.

3. Parson & White. The principal inhabitants of Cumberland & Westmorland.1829. Alphabetic index compiled by R Grigg.

© Genuki 2004 Dave Huddart