Learning from each other- Guild of One-Name Studies


13 December 2017
Paul Howes talks to us about the Guild of One-Name Studies in this expert blog

In a town near you, there’s likely an enthusiastic band of family historians  - your local family history society members. These hardworking volunteers run family history societies to help teach people about family history and work to preserve the historic records of the area for the future. The range of historic projects they are involved in is vast. Read on for an inspiring example…

Q How has the nature of conducting a one-name study and the work of the Guild of One-Name Studies changed over the years?

A (Paul Howes) Established in 1979, the Guild exists to further the study of surnames, both in educating the public and encouraging our members to study particular names. We have about 3,000 members around the world studying a total of almost 9,000 surnames, including variant spellings. We support members by providing seminars, a quarterly journal, discounts and shared databases. Our marriage database contains over 1.1 million marriages. We now have 169 active websites for members at one-name.net

Today, the global nature of the internet has made it simple to acquire data from across the world and see scans of original records, largely obviating the need to visit churches for parish registers. Larger studies can operate with teams across multiple countries. And we have seen recent growth in surnames under study from outside the British Isles, now about 70. DNA adds to the fun of surname studies! See http://one-name.org/dna-introduction/ for an easy-to-read tutorial. 

The two really precious things about the Guild are the collaboration between members and the diversity of our studies. We can learn from each other because we are all trying different things.

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Think the Guild is for others? Think again! Check www.one-name.org to see if one of your surnames is being studied. If you find one, use the email button to contact the member. Perhaps you can help them or they you. If the surname is not being studied, what are you waiting for – it’s time to start your surname study!


To find out more about family history societies, buy the Christmas issue of Family Tree, in the shops now, priced £5.99 and bagged with the Family History Handbook. The Handbook is packed with behind-the-scenes interviews with key family history society members and a directory of family history societies worldwide. Now SOLD OUT from the Family Tree website but still available from your newsagents or download the digital version here!