My Weekend with GOONS

I had a great time this past weekend when I attended the annual conference of the Guild of One-Name Studies, held in Ashford, Kent, England. I also was invited to speak at the conference. This organization, affectionately referred to as GOONS, is based in England but has more than 2,600 members around the world. Indeed, they are very serious genealogists. Founded in 1979 in Britain, the Guild is widely recognised as a centre of academic excellence in one-name studies.

A one-name study is a project researching facts about a surname and all the people who have held it, as opposed to a particular pedigree (the ancestors of one person) or descendancy (the descendants of one person or couple). Many GOONS members register a surname so as to embark on a Guild-recognised, one-name study and coordinate world-wide activity in studying the surname. Only one person may register a specific surname with the Guild, but membership in the Guild is open to all with an interest in surname studies and is not restricted to those who wish to register a name.

A one-name study generally is a serious effort to document EVERYONE who was born with or acquired a particular surname, whether that person is a blood relative to others of the same surname or not. So far, nobody has attempted to research all people with the names of Smith, Jones, or Johnson. However, the process does work well for less common names. In fact, Guild members presently have registered over 8,400 study surnames as active projects they are working on.

Guild members are not restricted to researching their own surnames. Many members research their mother’s maiden name or a grandmother’s maiden name or any other surname of interest. Many members conduct two or more simultaneous studies, such as one on their own surname plus another on a mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name.

You can find out if your surname of interest is already registered by using the search box on the Guild’s home page at If it is already registered, you probably will want to contact the person conducting the study. If it is not already registered, you may want to initiate the study yourself!

This past weekend’s annual conference was held in the Ashford International Hotel, a modern hotel and conference center in Ashford, Kent. I was invited to present the keynote speech on the opening day. Everything seemed to run smoothly during the three-day conference with one significant exception: the speaker scheduled for the last presentation on the last day had a family emergency earlier in the day and was unable to attend. I was asked if I could substitute, perhaps by delivering a presentation on a different topic. I admit I was flattered.

With only a couple of hours to go before the scheduled time, I went onto the cloud and retrieved a presentation I had made a few weeks earlier at a different conference. I made a few minor changes to the presentation’s slides, converting American spelling into “proper English” and dollar amounts into pounds. I was also amused by the topic: Cloud Computing for Genealogists. That seemed appropriate for a presentation that I was able to retrieve on short notice from the cloud. The audience didn’t seem to mind the last-minute change of the speaker and the topic. Well, the Brits are always polite. Perhaps they did mind; but, if so, they never let me know!

Many of the other presentations offered this past weekend focused on the methodologies of conducting a one-name study or on detailed information on the various methods of obtaining information from major online genealogy databases. You can find a list of all the (scheduled) presenters and the titles of their presentations at

Of course, the information on that web page is now about a past conference. I suspect the web page will be replaced soon with current information. If you have an interest in learning what happens at a conference of the Guild of One-Name Studies, I suggest you look at that page soon or else you will have to wait some number of months before the schedule is posted for next year’s conference, to be held 17th to 19th April 2015 in Lincolnshire.

If you have an interest in conducting a one-name study anywhere in the world, I strongly suggest you consider joining the Guild of One-Name Studies. Even better, you should attempt to attend one of the Guild’s conferences. You undoubtedly will enjoy it and will also learn from the experience. I know that I did!

You can learn more about the Guild of One-Name Studies at

My thanks to Derek Palgrave, President of the Guild of One-Name Studies; to Cliff Kemball, Guild Treasurer and 2014 Conference organiser; Bob Cumberbatch; and all the rest of the organizers of this year’s Guild conference. I must say I enjoyed the conference.


One Comment

It was great to see you again, Dick, you old son-of-a-so-and-so! Everybody at the conference enjoyed both your talks,


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