What is a One-Name Study?




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A one-name study is a project researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree (ancestors of one person) or descendancy (descendants of one person or couple). Some "one-namers" restrict their research geographically, perhaps to one country, but most one-namers collect all occurrences world-wide.

A one-name study may concentrate on aspects such as geographical distribution of the name and the changes in that distribution over the centuries, or may attempt to reconstruct the genealogy of as many lines as possible bearing the name. A frequent aim is to identify a single original location of the name, especially if the name appears to derive from a place name. But for many names, for example those indicating an occupation like Butcher, or a patronymic-type surname such as Peterson, there will not be a single origin.

There is much scope for co-operation between one-namers and other genealogists and family historians - we are not a breed apart, and I am also engaged in more conventional family history research into all my other ancestors. A co-operative effort between people studying the same surname bears much fruit and they have a good chance of discovering new relatives, depending of course on how common the name is.

The Vousden One-Name Study


My interest in the Vousdens begins with my paternal grandmother, born Agnes Minnie Lucy Vousden, whose family now I have traced back to the 1500s. My struggle to break down a "brick wall" around the idemtity of my 3 x great grandparents led me to start the one-name study. To this day I have yet to discover the date and place of marriage of William Vousden and Sarah (if indeed they did marry), or her maiden name.

In pursuing my own family research I have made contact with many other Vousden researchers, in England and abroad, most of whom trace their family back to Goudhurst, this one small village in Kent, near the Sussex border. I believe more Vousdens trace their ancestry back to Goudhurst than to any other place.

The two earliest pieces of evidence that I have found of Vousdens both relate to a place or places just a few miles east of Goudhurst, around Biddenden. These are a Lay Subsidy tax return and a Will and they date back to 1344 and 1474 respectively. I believe that the Vousden name may derive from the small hamlet of Fosten Green near Biddenden, and that the surname has evolved from this and suffered many spelling variations over time, including Forsdenne, Forsden, Fousden, Fouston, and later Vowsden and Vouseden.

I have registered my Vousden One-Name Study with the Guild of One-Name Studies.

This one-name study of the Vousden surnmae has grown out of my own genealogical research. My principal interest is in the history of all my family, but I believe the one-name approach is both valid and interesting. So I include:

  • people whose surnames are Vousden by both male and female descent;
  • people who include Vousden at first or second position in a double-barrelled surname;
  • people who have Vousden as a first or middle name;
  • people of either sex who acquired the Vousden surname by servitude (slavery), deed poll, marriage or adoption;
  • corporations which have Vousden as part of their name;
  • fictional people given the name Vousden by novelists; and
  • real people who assume the name Vousden as a stage name, screen name, ring name, pen name or nom de plume or nom de guerre, or any other pseudonym.

I am indebted to Jean-Baptiste Piggin for most of this typology. By way of two examples, my father's older brother was named Robert Vousden Brown, and a well-known Vousden was the Irish actor, poet and playwright William ("Bill") Francis Maher MacNevin, more commonly known by his stage name Val Vousden. They both have a place in this one-name study.


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