Distribution of the Vousden Surname

The earliest evidence that I have found of the Vousden surname, or a probable earlier variant of it, is of one Simon de Forsdenne in 1344. He appears as a taxpayer in the Kent Lay Subsidy Roll of 1334/5, in the Hundred of Badekelegh or Barkley. This ancient administrative area contained most of the parish of Biddenden, and part of the parishes of Benenden, Cranbrook, Frittenden, Halden, Headcorne, and Smarden.

The next earliest is the Will of Adam Forsden, of Biddenden, made in 1474 and recorded in the Calendar of Wills and Administrations 1396-1558 of Canterbury Probate Registry. He too may be a forerunner of modern Vousdens.

By the sixteenth century most of the Vousdens seemed to be in and around the parish of Goudhurst, just a few miles to the west. They were mostly known as Vousden, but with some Fousdens.

The Vousdens remained strongly concentrated in a small cluster of parishes around Goudhurst until at least the mid-nineteenth century. There had been an earlier scattering of Vousdens south into Sussex (for example, Winchelsea and Rye) and then later the dispersal was generally towards the industrial towns of the Medway in north Kent and to London.

Surnames Profiler

The two distribution maps presented here are courtesy of the National Trust Names website. This uses the findings of a spatial literacy project at University College London (UCL) that is investigating the distribution of surnames in Great Britain, both current and historic.

This is a multidisciplinary study of the origins of names involving linguistics, geography, genetics, epidemiology, history, anthropology, politics and sociology. It emphasises the key role of space in understanding the emergence, evolution, relationships and changes in distribution of names through history.

The original Surname Profiler application has now been transferred to the National Trust as part of University College's outreach activities. The National Trust now allows users to search the databases, and to trace the geography and history of 25,000 family names in Britain.

Location of Vousdens in the UK census of 1881: [Image produced from the National Trust Names website.]

Location of Vousdens in Britain in 1998: [Image produced from the National Trust Names website.]

Changing Distribution in Britain (1881-1998)

In the 1881 census, 225 of the 280 Vousdens lived in the county of Kent. They were very strongly represented in a small cluster of parishes around and including Goudhurst on the Kent border with Sussex. Of the other 55, 29 were in Surrey, 15 in Sussex, 7 in London, 2 in Essex, and 1 each in Somerset and Staffordshire.

The second map shows a distribution that is now more dispersed but still very much in the south-east of England and with a continued strong concentration in Kent and Sussex.

Vousdens Abroad

Today there are also Vousdens in Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Germany and probably elsewhere. This One-Name Study is world wide and I look forward to making contact with more Vousdens abroad.

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