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What's in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker by David McKie
  

What's in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker

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Sue Baker's view...

The first thing you learn from David McKie’s book on Surnames is how much you didn’t know and the second is to have pity for those trying to trace their families back in history. For what a tangled web it is, intentional name change, misspelling and in the case of paupers and immigrants name allocation and adjustment. And when it mattered – for a price – you could have you family tree adjusted and lengthened to include a royal connection – and as for royal bastards – we’ll draw a veil. It’s informative, entertaining and gives you a whole new perspective on surnames, their history and the need we have to be named.

Like for Like Reading

A Dictionary of English Surnames, Oxford University Press

The Surnames Handbook: A Guide to Family Name Research in the C21, Debbie Kennett

Who is Sue Baker

Synopsis

What's in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker by David McKie

This is the Sunday Times bestseller. Surnames are much more than convenient identity tags; they are windows into our families' pasts. Some suggest ancestral trades (Butcher, Smith, Roper) or physical appearance (Long, Brown, Thynne). Some provide clues to where we come from (McDonald, Evans, Patel). And some - Rymer, Brocklebank, Stolbof - offer a hint of something just a little more exotic or esoteric. All are grist to the mill for David McKie who, in What's in a Surname?, sets off on a journey around Britain to find out how such appellations have evolved and what they tell us about ourselves. En route he looks at the surname's tentative beginnings in medieval times, and the myriad routes by which particular names became established. He considers some curious byways: the rise and fall of the multi-barrel surname and the Victorian reinvention of 'embarrassing' surnames among them. He considers whether fortune favours those whose surnames come at the beginning of the alphabet. And he celebrates the remarkable and the quirky, from the fearsome Ridley (the cry of which once struck terror in the hearts of their neighbours) to the legend-encrusted Tichborne, whose most famous holders were destined to suffer misfortune and controversy. Elegiac and amusing by turns, he offers a wonderfully entertaining wander along the footpaths of the nation's history and culture, celebrating not just the Smiths and Joneses of these islands but the Chaceporcs and Swetinbeddes, too.


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Reviews

David McKie's incredibly detailed research and his diamond-sharp prose make this book a delight, full of wisdom and fun. Simon Hoggart

We are all slaves to our surnames. There is no escape from them. Be they grand or humble, David McKie sees behind every one a trail of genealogy and history, wealth and poverty, celebrity and shame. Names are the nation's most secretive record, our island still in code. It is brilliantly revealed in this book. Simon Jenkins

About the Author

David McKie was deputy editor of the Guardian from 1975 to 1984 and wrote both its 'Smallweed' and 'Elsewhere' columns. His books include Jabez - shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award and the Saga Award for Wit - Great British Bus Journeys and McKie's Gazetteer.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd July 2014

Author

David McKie

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Publisher

Windmill Books an imprint of Cornerstone

Format

Paperback
304 pages

Categories

The Real World
History
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Genealogy, heraldry, names & honours

Social & cultural history

ISBN

9780099558941

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