Society Saturday:- Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS)

Six steps to beginning your own One-Name Study 

by Anne Brady, guest blogger 

Guild of One-Name Studies

A One-Name Study is a project researching all occurrences of a surname (and its variants), as opposed to a particular pedigree or a particular descendancy. 

The object is to discover things about the actual surname and the people who have held it.

Step One Is it already being done?

Check or Google your surname

Step Two Find out more about the name

  • How big a study will it be?
    Estimate by using the totals from the 1881 English census:
    - 1-30 Tiny (T)
    - 30-300 Small (S)
    - 300-3000 Medium (M)
    - 3000-30,000 Large (L)
    - 30,000-300,000 (XXL)
Multiplying the number in this census by 10 will give a very approximate count of the total (English) BDMs 1837-2006.

  • Variants and Deviants
    A VARIANT is an alternate spelling used by individuals themselves, or is one used consistently in official documents.
    DEVIANTS are typos, misreadings of handwriting and any other spelling that is not a true variant, it occurs only randomly.

    How many variants and deviants are there? Check the IGI (International Genealogical Index) for a good overview, but remember that you will continue to find more.

Step Three Make some decisions

How will you store and record your research? This will be influenced by the size of your study – from Tiny up to XXL

  • Family History program?
  • Spreadsheets – Excel, Access (e.g. Custodian)?
  • All info on one spreadsheet, or broken down by e.g. type of record, country?
  • How will you cope with different spellings?
  • How far down the line will you take females who marry out of the name?
  • Paperwork or scans
  • Filing system?
  • Odd bits of information?

Step Four
Setting up and getting organised

  • Make a list of known variants/deviants. Keep a printout of your list with you at all times, and amend it whenever you find more possibilities
  • Once you have a basic list, work out how few online searches you can manage with careful use of wildcards (BL*X*G, BL*C*G etc) and record them
  • Set up a new family file in your family history program
  • Copy across any data you currently have on that name
  • Create whatever spreadsheets you have decided to use. Remember to input from large to small, eg YYYYMMDD, or Country/County/Parish to make sorting and searching easier.

The FIRST spreadsheet should be your research log

Fields I use on my log: Date searched / Repository / Category / Search Type / Website / Record Title / URL/Catalogue Ref / Country/County / Years searched / Names checked / Result / Notes
  • Set up files and folders, both hard-copy and on your PC. Mine are organised by place in descending size order, then by type of record and/or repository. (E.g. UK-ENG-KENT- Cemeteries, Census, Certificates, Directories, Houses, Newspapers, Probate, etc.) Or look at the Family Roots organiser system at
  • Draw up a table of the total census records across all available websites for your name, as not all will be found in one place thanks to the huge variety of transcribing errors. You may find a separate table for each main variant is useful.
Census search results for the name Beachcroft across the
major genealogy websites - demonstrates the variation
of results you will find across them all

Copyright Helen Osborn,, used with permission

  • If you don’t already have a good backup system in place, set one up NOW
  • Create a list of the order you plan to search the records in
  • Label a folder with ‘To Do’ and keep a separate sheet for each Research Repository, or keep a list in a Word document folder

Step Five - 
Join the Guild of One Name Studies at (in order to save lots of money).

Discounts on subscriptions / other offers for different sites:
  • Findmypast – 10%
  • Lost Cousins – 20%
  • The Genealogist (Diamond Subscription) - GBP40 off
  • Various other short-term offers are also made
  • Use GOONS Marriage, Probate and Scottish indexes; the Wiki; join the Forum and/or the Bulletin Board; get a mentor
  • (Use, a free, public-access website to find the church for many marriages)
Do a Pharos course online about Beginning One Name Studies

Maximise your use of Family Search. If you aren’t sure how to get the best out of it, go to the ‘Learn’ tab and watch some of their videos

In Freebmd download records, and set up saved searches

Trawl Facebook, Youtube and Ebay, look through Gutenberg and Google free books ,

Use other Google products such as alerts, blogs, images, documents & news at

Remember other search engines such as Mocavo at

Use to find lots of websites specific to your county and parish. 

And of course never forget Cyndis List . . .

Search Rootsweb message boards and lists at
Browse Wikitree
Use free webinars and blogs to learn how to research new areas, gather lots of tips and hear of new websites and programs to try, e.g.

Make full use of the Auckland Libraries & New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) resources - What about the many free sites that are available at one or both places - have you tried

Have you looked at the bookshelves, the fiche or CD drawers? Have you used the library catalogue to find what there is in any area? Set up Google alerts for your names and areas of interest.

Join Lost Cousins and add the families you find on the specified census pages as ‘One Name Study’ relationships.

Use pay-per-view / subscription sites which allow use of their indexes for free. Sign up for their newsletters so that you know when they are having free weekends for some of their datasets.

Step Six


About Anne Brady
Anne is the New Zealand representative for the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS and a member of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists NZSG).

Anne spoke about One-Name Studies to our audience at Central Library for our family history lunchtime series talks, that Auckland Libraries holds here fortnightly on Wednesdays between February and November. 

She very kindly permitted us to post her informative handout notes here on the Kintalk blog.

Happy hunting

This entry was posted on Saturday, 26 July 2014 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

One Response to “Society Saturday:- Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS)”

  1. Very good overview by my fellow one-namer. I will be delivering a presentation to my own local society this Fall, and Anne gave some good tips here that will help me.



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