An Analysis of the English Origenes Report on the Tucker Surname
The stated aim of the study was to: "demonstrate the reproducibility of an analytical research method that uses the surnames of an individual’s ‘genetic matches’ to pinpoint a time and place where a founding ancestor (e.g. the Tucker Adam’) lived".
approach is based on two premises flowing from a client DNA report. First,
that genetic matches with a primary surname can
represent genetic links that came into existence prior to the
development of surnames. Second that the "genetic homeland" of the
surname in question can be determined by observing the geographic
overlap of one or more of the matching surnames with the primary
The suggestion that the Tucker surname is a single origin surname, and may indicate a "single founding ancestor for all Tuckers" is simply unsupported speculation on Dr. Bowes' part. In the Tucker report's cautionary notes, he states that with respect to occupational surnames "English surnames often have multiple points of origin, and hence potentially with a large number of unrelated founding ancestor’s". He then proceeds to ignore his own cautionary note and without any collaborating evidence suggests there may be a single "Adam" Tucker responsible for all Tuckers.
He is correct in the observation that the Tucker surname is found in the south of England. However the distribution of the surname is fairly ubiquitous in the southwest, stretching from Cornwall thru Devon, coastal Wales, Somerset, southern Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset. In fact the Tucker surname is a very common surname (ranked 234 in 1881) with a frequency of 16,547. Hardly the pattern one would expect from a single progenitor.
Tucker was a common occupational surname associated with the manufacture of cloth at the time of surname formation. David Hey notes in Family Names and Family History that occupational names were distinct and were readily chosen as surnames. With respect to the Tucker surname he notes:
To reinforce Hey's point the Tucker and Fullers map illustrates the dialect divide between the two surnames in southern England.
The late Richard Mckinley, for many years the director of the Survey of English Surnames in the department of Local History at Leicester University, observed the following regarding regional surnames, with particular reference to the Tucker surname:
The most serious shortcoming in the report concerns the claim of a single Devon origin for the Tucker surname. As evidence in support of the Devon origin, a series of maps of each surname are included in the report. The source of the maps is the GB Public Profiler which generates county level distribution maps based on the 1881 census. The key maps are those for the Tucker and Garrison surnames. Garrison was selected because it had the highest number of surname matches (14) with the Tucker surname. (the public profiler maps are for private personal use, if you wish to see the maps on which the studies conclusions were based they can be viewed at the Public Profiler site)
Dr. Bowes correctly observed that the only area
on the Public Profiler maps where the Garrison
and Tucker surnames
overlapped was in Devon. Evidently it is on this basis,
and the apparent assumption that Tucker is in fact a single
that Devon was selected as the Tucker homeland. Unfortunately, as is often the case, maps
frequently hide more than they reveal.
In fact there is considerable overlap, between the two
surnames when mapped at the Registration District level, and not in
the areas Dr. Bowes expects (see maps above). The Tucker surname can be found in 70%
of the RD's in England and Wales. Excluding London,
twenty two RD's in the following counties have clusters of both the Tucker and Garrison
surnames with a sprinkling of Adkins, Hulleys and Mouldings thrown
in for good measure: Wiltshire, Berkshire, Sussex,
Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire,
Lancashire,The West Riding of Yorkshire and The North Riding of
Yorkshire. The most striking association can be found in
the general vicinity of Birmingham where there are seven contiguous
Registration Districts each containing both Tuckers and Garrisons.
Dr. Bowes Is
evidently unaware of the broader association of the
Garrison and Tucker surnames. If he had been, he could hardly have
selected Devon as the "Tucker homeland" based on the presence of a single Garrison census
record, a female born in Gloucestershire. Clearly his conclusion is based on a surprisingly superficial
geographic analysis. Considering the relative frequencies of the two
surnames, the the chances of their spatial coincidence in Devon
being a non random event (one not caused by chance) is miniscule at
McKinley, R.A. A History of British Surnames. Longman London and New York, 1990 Print pp. 143
Hey, David. Family Names and Family History. Hambledon and London, 2000 Print pp.72
1881 census England and Wales. Findmypast.co.uk
1881 census England and Wales. Familysearch.org
Archer Software. The Surname Atlas