I have just finished a pleasant weekend, attending and speaking at a genealogy conference. Like many conferences, this one was held by a non-profit organization. However, this organization is very different from the typical genealogy society.
The Guild of One-Name Studies is dedicated to promoting the public understanding of one-name studies and the preservation and accessibility of the resultant information. A one-name study is exactly what it sounds like: studying the origins and migrations of all people who share a particular surname. The individuals being documented may or may not be related to each other. The study often includes documenting several families that share a surname but are not related.
Many members of the Guild of One-Name Studies (or GOONS, as it is often called) typically register a surname with the organization, then conduct a Guild-recognized one-name study and coordinate world-wide activity in studying the surname. Only one person may register a specific surname, but membership of the Guild is open to all with an interest in surname studies and is not restricted to those who wish to register a name. The Guild also strongly encourages other forms of surname study, such as DNA projects.
Founded in 1979 in Britain, the Guild has members all over the world. This year's annual conference, like all previous conferences, was held in England although the organization is considering holding its annual conference in North America within a few years. It supports its many worldwide members in several other ways, including a very active web site and a frequent newsletter mailed to all members.
The Guild also publishes a Surname Atlas on CD-ROM that plots surname and first name data from the 1881 U.K. Census. This demonstrates a surname distribution in the 1881 Census of England, Scotland, and Wales.
This year's conference was held at the De Vere Hotel in Daresbury Park, Warrington, Cheshire. It is a modern facility of just about the right size to handle a couple of hundred genealogists. I have been in the hotel for four days now and have enjoyed it. The food has been good, and I ate far too much. I am checking out tomorrow morning and am taking the train to London, where I’ll spend a few days.
The Guild organizes a number of seminars and conferences every year although the annual conference remains as its premier event. This year's conference attracted about 160 attendees, including some from the United States, one from New Zealand, and at least one from Australia. Both Guild members and non-members are welcome to attend. The Guild also is represented at other events in the UK and around the world. For instance, I learned that the Guild will exhibit this year in the United States at the annual conferences of the National Genealogical Society (in Charleston, South Carolina), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (in Springfield, Illinois), and at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree (in Burbank, California).
At last night's banquet I had the pleasure of sitting next to Derek Palgrave, President of the Guild of One-Name Studies and one of the organization's founders. Thanks to Derek, I learned a great deal about the history of the Guild from its first conference in Leicester in 1978 to the present day. Although the first conference was held in 1978, the Guild of One-Name Studies was officially created about a year later, in 1979. I later noticed that Derek wrote the following on the organization's web site:
Some try to trace all their direct ancestors, whilst others concentrate on a limited number of family lines. Several of us made a decision to find out as much as we could about the bearers of a particular surname including its proven variants.
The Guild of One-Name Studies now has more than 2,300 members around the world, studying more 7,850 registered names and variants. Many of the members are very experienced and knowledgeable about family history research and one-name studies; most are extremely enthusiastic and are quick to help other people extend their knowledge and further their research.
If you have an interest in a surname worldwide, not limited to the descendants of a particular couple, you might be interested in joining the Guild of One-Name Studies. You can find out which surnames are already being studied from the Guild's online Register at http://www.one-name.org
You are invited to join, whether your preferred surname is already "taken" or not. Some members become assistants in already-established studies. A few Guild members conduct two or even more simultaneous one-name studies, especially for "low volume" surnames.
All in all, I thought it was a great conference. Staying at this hotel makes one feel like Alice in Wonderland. One of the conference rooms is called the Alice Room, and another is called the Lewis Carroll Room. The reason is the hotel is only a few yards from the home of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and other children's stories. All of his children's stories were written here. The name of Lewis Carroll was his pen name. His true name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and more information about him can found on a number of web sites, including at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_carroll
Coincidentally, I had one strange moment here. This is a true story: While on a stroll for exercise around the hotel on Friday, only a few yards from Lewis Carroll's home, a small rabbit ran in front of me and then disappeared down a hole. I decided to not follow the rabbit. I was afraid of falling in the hole, and who knows what would have happened next?
The next annual conference of the Guild of One-Name Studies will be held on the 13th through 15th of April 2012 in Malden, Essex, England.
More information about the Guild of One-Name Studies can be found at http://www.one-name.org/
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