This Surname Studies web site is dedicated to the memory of the late Philip Dance who was an enthusiastic proponent of the study of the distribution, incidence and statistical analysis of the surnames of Britain. It is based on his web site Modern British Surnames: a resource guide.

Following Phil's untimely death in October 2008, several members of the Guild of One-Name Studies expressed concern that Phil's web site might be lost.

After discussion between interested members, and with the full support of Phil's widow Jo Dance, this web site has now been set up to ensure that Phil's work is preserved.

No website stays the same forever and I am sure Phil would have agreed that this site has now reached a stage when a restructuring and redesign was desirable. This Surname Studies web site is therefore a restructured version of Modern British Surnames, but all Phil's content is here. It is displayed in black type (except for hyperlinks which are in blue and quotations which are in blue-green). More recent content (not by Philip Dance) is in grey type.

Mike Spathaky
1st May 2009

Philip Dance wrote the following, which applies as much to this Surname Studies site as to his original Modern British Surnames.

I must emphasise that I have absolutely no information about individual names - you are the expert on these not me

However, I am always pleased to receive comments about the site - which parts are useful, what needs improving. This site receives a steady daily stream of visitors (about 100 a day). I am at a loss to understand why, as the material is not mainstream genealogy, and is becoming more and more abstruse. [But please now read the Contact page before sending your comments - MS.]

I try to analyse the origins. For example, FE colleges are regular visitors but I am intrigued as to why, as these pages do not co-incide with anything they teach. And why do so many universities visit, when none teaches the study of surnames with the exception of Leicester and Sheffield?

The reason why...

... this site exists is because I became interested in the study of surnames after reading Colin Rogers' The Surname Detective . Through this book, I extended my reading, and made contact with a few like-minded people. (Well about 2 actually). The study of surnames seems to be fragmented between amateur and academic, between scientist and linguist, between family and amateur historian, each pursuing their own line.

There appears to be no single home for anyone just fascinated with any aspect of British surnames, whether it be psychological aspects or their use as health-markers...

Well that is what I thought. I now realise that so many better people have trod this path before me, had the same ideas, expressed them more cogently... Chastened, this site claims no originality whatsoever. It is derivative; all that it is trying to do is to tie together some fascinating threads. Finally, be warned, I am not an expert in any of the topics referred to, and my grasp of statistical method is basic -though I am trying to improve with your help.

And lastly, there are still a lot of discoveries to make about our naming system, and all too few researching this area


My thanks are due to Trevor Ogden, Professor Ed Lawson, Steven Archer, Donald Hatch, Ken Tucker, Patrick Hanks, Martin Ecclestone, Matt Tompkins (for sending me a copy of his excellent MA dissertation), the UK Office for National Statistics and the various publishers mentioned, for permission to reproduce. Especial thanks to the inter-library loan staff at Portsmouth City Library for obtaining such a wide range of books and articles.

Philip Dance