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Hardest English surname to research in your tree.


Staff member
In Ireland, but born Bucks.
I'll start the ball rolling.

Austin. variations include, Ausden, Aston, Asten, Astin.....and so on.

I know there are plenty of hard ones in Scotland, Ireland & Wales, but for the moment, lets focus in England.;)

You'd think Smith but forget Smith, the rarer surnames are the hardest TBH as they have a zillion variants. Teager, Wallaker, Titshall.
I had fun with Yearsley. So far I've come across Yeardsley, Yardsley, Yarsley, various versions of those three without the e before the y. The best, however, was Yurzly.

And then theer's Branthwaite - Branthwhite, Branthwit, Braithwiate Branthwat and Branhat to name but a few. Thank Heavens I've got a lot of Smiths but even those don't get left alone -Smithe, Smyth, Smythe, Smaith. I've even found a Smuth.

Just don't get me started on Smurthwaite!

Palding. Paldin, Pawling, Palling, Pallin, Pawlden, Pallding.

Harbord. Harbert, Herbert, Harberd, Horbert, Hurburd, Harburd.
You missed a couple Ben........Pauling, Paulin.......and I guees there's a few more.:eek::2fun:

I have an Austin Clinkard from Garsington in Oxfordshire. May be a family name. One of the hardest names. Clinkard is also a name which seems to have a zillion variants.
I have Austin in my tree as well Steve from Cookham Berkshire 1600's, not found much online so won't be reasrching it for a while.
Did ok with Thomas in Wraysbury Bucks and I'm back to c1750 but didn't come from there originally. My thoughts are they came from Wales, don't think I have much chance with that.

I've got Smiths all over the place, but they are the easy ones. I do agree that the more unusual the surname the more garbled it can become. However it does bug me when surnames are omitted altogether. I have several marriages where the Register entry just reads, for example, John Smith married Jane. I suppose I ought to be grateful the entries at least give a date!

I have come across baptism where no parents are listed, just the name of child and date of baptism.

At least with common names it does seem easier to stick to one spelling variant but Wilson can throw up Willson and Smith can be Smythe/Smythe/Smytthe or Smuth.
Then there are the names which change just by adding an 'e'? In my lot it is Locke, my mother's maiden name. On the free BMD lists, there is no 'e' for my eldest brother, but there is for me and the other brother. It's been said before, it's all down to the person collecting the information or dealing with it at the time. :rolleyes::rolleyes: