Totally Free Ancestry Records – Surname Maps as Totally Free Ancestry Records

Totally free ancestry records in the way of census reports, BMD indexes, and church records are highly valued by family historians. Few people however understand how surname distribution maps (maps portraying the distribution of a particular surname throughout a geographical area) can serve them as totally free ancestry records. An understanding of surname distribution and knowledge of exactly how maps can help to find the original location of their surname can clarify that, and in this article we'll seek to do so. Using examples, we'll illustrate how knowing the distribution of a surname can be useful in helping a person make sense of their family history, and even find that illusive ancestor, clarifying how Surname Distribution Maps make excellent totally free ancestry records.

Surname Distribution Maps as Totally Free Online Ancestry Records

To consider them as totally free ancestry records, it is first important to first understand what they show. The main value in these maps is that they enable genealogists to pinpoint the predominant location of a surname. This can quickly narrow down your search for a BDM certificate. Knowing where to look is half the battle to finding totally free ancestry records; if you can narrow down the search field it can save you a lot of time and trouble.

The core of surname distribution is that most people stayed fairly close to home, even if they travelled great distances to work. Concentrations of surnames are clearly visible on Surname Distribution Maps, making it quite likely that the origin of that name is from the area of its highest concentration.

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Surname Distribution Studies as Totally free Ancestry Records

With the advent of electronic access to a variety of data, surname distribution studies have been made much easier than in the past. Early family historians and surname distribution experts such as Henry Guppy would count and transcribe the surnames from county phonebooks and index them manually. Much of that data is available to us today, and those indexes make excellent totally free ancestry records. When combined with census records, you are able to get a historical snapshot of a particular location, and the further ability to pinpoint your ancestor by date in addition to geographical location.

One particular publication, The British 19th Century Surname Atlas by Steve Archer, contains maps for every surname and first name included in the 1881 census. There are however various surname distribution maps that either use the 1881 census or modern data, and many also use Post Code districts to further pinpoint a surname origin. As you can see, these studies make a great addition to any other totally free ancestry records you may have at your disposal, but can be extremely helpful on their own as well.

How Valuable are Survey Distribution Maps as Totally Free Ancestry Records?

Besides helping to pinpoint a location for a surname's origin, Surname Distribution Maps can serve as totally free ancestry records in another way as well. This is in the area of spelling variations of surnames, and Surname Distribution maps cast light on some popular misconceptions in this area. Previously it was believed that surnames of similar spellings were derived from the same source, but distribution maps have shown that in several cases this is not true.

Low level of literacy have been a major influence on the spelling of surnames over the years, especially in pre-industrial times when local clergy and officials had only sufficient levels of literacy to perform their most basic duties. Misspellings were inevitable, but Surname Distribution maps indicate that these variations take on a life of their own, making these maps particularly interesting as totally free ancestry records.

Surname Distribution Maps contribute to research as totally free ancestry records in several ways:

  • Show where a surname is most concentrated, thus pinpointing a starting place for your research
  • Indicate other geographical areas where the surname may found
  • Reveal the origin of spelling variants and whether they may be connected to your own name

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Having that type of knowledge about your surname can save you lots of time and resources in the course of your research, making Surname Distribution Maps invaluable as totally free ancestry records.

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