© J.H.Mathieson
 Can the Distribution of 19th Century Farmers Be Used To Identify a Surname's Genetic Homeland? The belief that it is possible to pinpoint the location where one's ancestors first took their surnames approximately 1000 years ago is the basis of case study reports produced and marketed by English, Scottish and Irish Origenes. This review will examine the claim with particular reference to the application of the methodology to English case studies and the use of farmers as a reliable locator for a testee's genetic homeland. It will not directly address the question of Scottish or Irish case studies, although many of the same points could be equally applied in the context of these reports. Introduction: At first blush the process behind the English case study appears straightforward and is based on the assumption that farmers have persisted in their homeland, farming the same land their ancestors did 1,000 or more years ago. The case studies rely for evidence on surname matches in YDNA test results at the 67, 37, or 25 marker levels. The 1841 census is used to identify the location and distribution of farmers bearing these surnames. Google Earth base maps are then used to plot the distribution of 1841 farmers and thus identify the genetic homeland where the testee's ancestors lived some 30 generations ago. Simply stated, find the farmers find the homeland. The homeland is often allegedly identified with remarkable precision and the assertion has often made that the genetic homeland of the testee's ancestors can be pinpointed to within a five mile radius.   A False Equivalence:   At the most basic level the hypothesis is based on a false equivalence. Farmers as we know them in the 19th century did not come into existence until the 14th century, largely the consequence of the economic and social disruption caused by the Black Death. The vast majority of agricultural workers in the 12th and 13th century, when hereditary surnames were being formed, were peasants tied to manorial estates. As part of their feudal tenure each peasant was allocated a small portion of land, sufficient to support a family and generate a customary return for the lord of the manor. In many cases labour would also be required in return for the use of the manor's land. The plague years of the 14th century did much to transform this Medieval social and economic order. With between 30% and 50% of the population lost, labour was soon in short supply and land was in abundance. The peasant was able to seek higher returns and many were in a position to actually accumulate land, either by farming the land of their less fortunate neighbours or by leasing portions of the manor demesne. Those who didn't, relocated to regions of labour shortage to avail themselves of higher wages or more favourable customary arrangements.      The Enclosure Movement and Consolidation: As the 14th century closed an active land market had developed and the process of land consolidation was well under-way. It would continue into the 19th century and beyond. The market in land would lead to the emergence of yeoman and tenant farmers as well as large scale capitalist enterprise. However the ascendency of the yeoman and tenant farmer would be relatively short lived. The process of enclosure initiated by manor lords would consolidate land in fewer and fewer hands at the expense of  small land holders. Table 1. illustrates that small land holdings were relatively important in the early 17th century with approximately one third of all holdings falling between 5 and 60 acres. By 1800 less than 8% of land holdings fell into this range. On the other hand large scale farms, those with more than 100 acres, had risen to 85% of the total. Table 1. distinguishes between open field farms and those that fell within regions that had undergone enclosure. Areas where enclosure was slow to take hold resisted consolidation, but by 1800 open field farms had also succumbed to the inexorable process of land accumulation. The emergence of the textile industry in the 14th century was pivotal in the first phase of enclosure by encouraging the consolidation of arable fields into units more suitable for grazing sheep. This new spatial order reduced the need for labour and displaced peasant farmers. Manor Lords took full advantage of this opportunity to maximize returns on their holdings. The common, which was the heart of peasant holdings, was absorbed into the grazing land of the manor, and those who previously had access were denied and their customary relationship with their lord was dissolved. The second phase of enclosure, initiated in the early 18th century with the approval of parliament, was spurred on by the Agricultural Revolution. Increases in productivity would result in more surplus labour which would ultimately be drawn to the towns factories and mills of the Industrial Revolution. What was the impact on the yeoman and tenant farmer? While figures are not available for earlier periods, E.A.Wrigley has estimated the agricultural sector of the workforce in the 13th century to be approximately 75%. Table 2. illustrates a dramatic decline in primary occupations during the period 1688 to 1841. This in turn led to the expansion and growth of the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. Workers in these sectors may have broken their direct tie to the land, but not their genetic link to modern 21st century DNA test takers. Consequently, when looking for genetic links to the past, one must certainly look at the population distribution as a whole if one hopes to identify areas of possible surname origin. It is conceivable, and in fact highly probable, that there will be areas of origin with no direct evidence of individuals bearing a given surname and engaged in farming.     The following table constructed from the 1831 agricultural census return illustrates the relatively small numbers of males directly engaged in farming. It is instructive that farmers 20 years + amount to less than 8% of the male 20+ population for England. To ignore the distribution of the other 92% of the male population when searching for a surname's origin is an obvious shortcoming of the Origenes methodology.   Surname Continuity: Up to now we have focused on the reduction in the relative numbers of individuals directly involved in agriculture. The question of continuity of settlement by individual families has not been directly addressed. For the Origenes hypothesis to work there must be an unbroken genetic chain of males bearing a specific surname, if not on the same land, at least in close proximity to the homeland of their peasant ancestors. While it may be a romantic notion to imagine our ancestors toiling on the same land for thirty or more generations in an unbroken lineage, the chances are remote. The question of surname continuity has been indirectly addressed through research studies concerning population mobility from the early medieval period up to the 19th century. Analysis of surnames drawn from taxation lists and parish records suggest that at specific locales the persistence of surnames over relatively short periods of times is variable, but when extended to more lengthy time frames, continuity is the exception, not the rule. Matthew Tompkin's doctoral thesis is a remarkable study of the Great Horwood manor in Buckinghamshire. Covering the medieval and early modern eras, it examines the land market, land holdings, population and social structure of the manor. Great Horwood was exceptional in that while England was in turmoil, and the agricultural landscape was undergoing a dramatic transformation, Great Horwood was relatively stable. The manor exhibited many of the same trends, an active land market, consolidation of land, but their expression was muted and lacked extreme volitility. Despite this, the manor's surnames exhibited a surprising lack of continuity, generally experiencing a 40% to 50% turnover every 40 years. Stead's study of Holkham, Norfolk in the 18th and 19th centuries exhibited a similar pattern, particularly when the time horizon was extended from twenty years to sixty. A second Norfolk study examined the nature of land transfers recorded in the surviving court rolls of the manor of Hevingham between 1274 and 1444. It is noteworthy in that land transfers between non-relatives outnumber those between relatives throughout the period. Whittle observed that in Hevingham: Only 18 tenants had received land from a parent or close relative, and at least 2 of these still had to pay for the privilege. Further 5 were widows of tenants. Another 5 had acquired land by marrying widows, and 2 had married daughters of tenants, both receiving land from their wife's widowed mother. Of the rest, 3 were sons of previous tenants who had purchased land from non- relatives, while 18 had no known relatives in the manor and had evidently purchased their land”. Development of Agrarian Capitalism in England from c. 1450-c. 1580”, pp 157-9. Importantly she concluded that there was little evidence of “sentimental attachment” to the land on the part of the Hevingham peasant. 15 families remained in the village for between 61 and 90 years, and 27 for between  31 and 60 years, while 48 were only present for between 5 and 30 years. In total half of the surnames remained in the parish for less than a generation. While Whittles data is based on a single parish and care should be exercised not to draw broad generalizations, she supported her findings with reference to similar studies from Norfolk and Suffolk. She observed:   "....family land transfers were consistently outnumbered by transfers between non-relatives. William Hudson has shown that out of the 753 land transfers recorded in Hindolveston's surviving court rolls between 1309 and 1326, 10 per cent were customary inheritances, 18 per cent were other family transfers and the rest were transfers between non-relatives, while Richard Smith found very similar proportions in Redgrave between 1305 and 1319. In Martham, Janet Williamson found the proportion of family land transfers was even lower, at 'less than 20 per cent' in the surviving courts between 1290 and 1300. With regard to the west of the region, Mark Bailey notes that the majority of completed land transactions in early fourteenth century Breckland were inter vivos and involved peasants with no known  familial relationship”. Individualism and the Family-Land Bond, Past & Present, No. 160 (Aug., 1998), pp. 25-63   Finally Table 7. extends the time frame from the mid 13th century to the end of the 15th century and is based on a study of the disposition of land as evidenced in wills. The study is instructive on several points. First it is an extensive study of inheritance practices in the middle ages. The impact of the Black Death on inheritance can also clearly be seen. In normal periods (of approximately a decade) between 18% and 20% of estates were settled with no direct male heir and between 8% and 12% of estates fell to direct female heirs. However during the last half of the 14th century between 25% and 32% of estates had no direct male heir and direct female inheritance reached a high of 18.1% Conclusion: At the best of times identifying the origin of a surname is a daunting task. The Origenes hypothesis fails to consider the following: 19th century farmers are not geographically representative of the distribution of peasant farmers from the 12th and 13th century. The possibility that farmers might simply have become extinct at the surname's place of origin. Consider that in 1841, the census year on which the Origenes studies are based, less than 8% of the male English population aged 20+  were farmers, and this possibility looms large. Continuity of land ownership is short lived. Land may have passed out of families' hands through sale, or may have been absorbed in an enclosure. The ownership of land may have been passed thru a female line, extinguishing one surname lineage, but establishing another. Non paternity events among farmers could break the genetic link to the past. Given the accepted rate of 2% - 3% per generation many farmers with the same surname would not necessarily share the genetic signature of the test taker. Cumulatively, the chances of one having a NPE in their lineage approaches 50%. The vast majority of English surnames have multiple origins. The presence of farmers in one location does not guarantee the location is the surname's homeland. As is often the case with English surnames, contemporary surname distributions will often be found to have drifted from a known points of origin. Considering these factors the reliance on farmers as evidence of geographic origins runs a high risk of leading the researcher to erroneous conclusions. DNA analysis is an important tool in the search for origins and should not be neglected. However the search for origins should begin by examining the broader surname distribution, rely on relevant historical source material, and employ sound genealogical principles. Unfortunately there are no quick and easy fixes. Bibliography and reading list: The Disappearance of the Small Land Owner Author: Arthur H Johnson. Source: The Ford Lectures 1909, Oxford, The Claredon Press  https://archive.org/details/cu31924013762293 The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century  Author Richard Edward Tawney  Originally published in London—1912, Burt Franklin 514 West 113th Street New York 25, N.Y. source: Project Guttenburgh: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40336/40336-h/40336-h.htm      The end of Villainage in England Author: Thomas Walker, Publications of the American Economic Association, 3rd Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (May, 1900), pp. 3-99 Published by: American Economic Association Parliamentary Enclosure, Property, Population, and the Decline of Classical Republicanism in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Author: S. J. Thompson Source: The Historical Journal, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Sep., 2008), pp. 621-642 Published by: Cambridge University Press  The Occupational Structure of England c.1750-1871 A Preliminary Report. Author(s) Leigh Shaw-Taylor and E.A. Wrigle ,Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge (2008, 2006). Specialization of Work in England, 1100-1300. Author: R. H. Britnell Source: The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 1-16 The Debate over Farm Sizes in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century England. Author: J. V. Beckett Source: Agricultural History, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Jul., 1983), pp. 308-325 Published by: Agricultural History Society The Decline of the Small Landowner in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century England: Some Regional Considerations Author(s): J. V. Beckett Source: The Agricultural History Review, Vol. 30, No. 2 (1982), pp. 97-111 The rise of agrarian capitalism and the decline of family farming in England  Author Leigh Shaw-Taylor Economic history review, 2012, vol. 65, issue 1, pages 26-60 The Origins of a Peasant Land Market in England. Author: Paul R. Hyams Source: The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Apr., 1970), pp. 18-31 Peasant Society in a Midlands Manor, Great Horwood 1400 - 1600. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Leicester by Matthew Tompkins November 2006 https://lra.le.ac.uk/handle/2381/1390      Individualism and the Family-Land Bond: A Reassessment of Land Transfer Patterns Among The English Peasantry c. 1270-1580 Author: Jane Whittle, Source: Past & PresentNo. 160 (Aug., 1998), pp. 25-63 English county populations in the later eighteenth century.  Author:Tony Wrigley Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. Tenurial Developments and the Availability of Customary Land in a Later Medieval Community. Author: Phillipp R. Schofield Source: The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 49, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 250-267  Migration and Mobility in a Less Mature Economy: English Internal Migration, c. 1200-1350. Author: David Postles Source: Social History, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Oct., 2000), pp. 285-299 The Mobility of English Tenant Farmers, C. 1700-1850 Author David R. Stead Source: The Agricultural History Review, Vol. 51, No. 2 (2003), pp. 173-189 Family, Land and the Village Community in Later Medieval England. Author: Zvi Razi Source: Past & Present, No. 93 (Nov., 1981), pp. 3-36     
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