Have you ever wondered about the origins of different surnames? Do you have any idea where your own surname comes from?

If you’d like answers to these questions, Durham County Record Office might be able to help.

A ‘naming traditions’ session is to be held in the record office, looking at how surnames are passed down through families. The session – led by an archivist – will also try to pinpoint the time in history when surnames began to be inherited in the way they are today.

The session will also look at surname traditions in different parts of the UK. In Wales, for instance, until the 1800s surnames were patronymic, meaning people were simply named after their fathers. So people would have names like Rhys ap Leaun (Rhys son of Leaun), which sometimes makes it difficult for people of Welsh descent to trace their family trees.

Certain surnames are often linked to different regions and this can be a help for anybody researching their family history. The names Carr, Scott, Forster and Charge, for example, crop up frequently in County Durham.

The ‘naming traditions’ session, which will kick off with a talk from the archivist, is most suitable for people who already have some basic genealogy experience.

Dawn Layland, an archivist at Durham County Council, said, “Studying surnames can not only reveal the tradition behind your name but is a fascinating subject in its own right.”

“After the talk, there will be time to browse the archives and put what you have learnt to the test with advice and support.”

The session, which costs £10, will take place on Thursday 17th May from 10 am to 12 noon and again on Thursday 24th May from 6.00 to 8.00 pm.

Booking is essential. Please telephone 03000 267 626 or email record.office@durham.gov.uk to reserve a place.

(The featured image shows archivist Dawn Layland.)    

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