Not Smith and Jones – Rare British Surnames On The Cusp Of Extinction


Do you have a rare surname? Could your family be amongst the final bearers of near extinct British surnames? If your surname is Miracle, Villan, Relish or Tumbler for example, then you’re a dying breed in Britain. If your surname is Bread or Spinster…then we will be surprised as you’re presumed extinct! Read more to find out!

To mark the completion of the 2011 UK census – when every person in the land is required to enter their personal details for posterity, we’ve identified the rarest British surnames: unusual last names that have lingered for centuries but are on the cusp of extinction (with just a handful of bearers), endangered (with under 200 bearers), or now missing, presumed extinct in 2011. Here we reveal these names and the origins and history of each.

We’re also seeking the general public’s help to confirm whether surnames thought to be extinct have truly disappeared and, if so, just who the last bearers were. So if your surname is amongst the rare or presumed extinct names listed below – we’d love to hear from you!

BRITISH SURNAMES ON THE BRINK – with under 20 bearers

Sallow (English)

Sallow (as distinct from the plural form of the surname, Sallows) was the common mediæval word for the willow tree, and would have been applied to one whose dwelling was near to such a tree or a copse of them. It is strictly speaking a ‘location’ nickname, and derives from the Old English word for the willow, sealh. An early bearer of the name was Nicholas de Sallowe, mentioned in the Shropshire Rotuli Hundredorum of 1254.

Fernsby (English)

Fernsby also appears to be diminishing in frequency. It is a hybrid of the Old English fearn – a fern and the Danish suffix –by, indicating a settlement, or even a farmstead. The meaning was clearly ‘a dwelling near the ferns’ and the surname was later derived from this.

Villin or Villan (English)

Villin (and Villan) referred to a commoner (the villein, as we have it today), though there could have been few reasons to single out such a man, unless he was a servant in a noble household.

The Norfolk pipe rolls for the year 1167 lists one, Ernald Vilein. There were only 2 people on the 2009 electoral roll by the name of Villin, located in London.

Miracle (Welsh)

The surname Miracle is Welsh in origin, first recorded in Anglesey. It is a Celtic in origin, derived from the personal name Meuric, which is the Welsh form of Maurice. The surname Miracle is ultimately derived from the Latin personal name Mauritius, which means dark.

Dankworth (English)

The name is made up of two elements, the first of which is probably a shortening of the Old German male personal name Tancred (having acquired the hardened initial letter ‘d’ in Englishmen’s speech). The second element, ‘-worth’, is a common Anglo-Saxon suffix, referring to a farmstead or an enclosed settlement – meaning that the name probably locates ‘the farmstead belonging to Tancred’.

Though 18th and 19th Century migration resulted in the Dankworth surname becoming well-established in the US, particularly in Ohio and Texas (with the late, Texas-born Ed Dankworth being a Former Alaska legislator), the family in the UK has remained small, with fewer Dankworths appearing to be recorded in the 21st Century than at the start of the last. The most famous British bearer of the name was John Dankworth (1927-2010), the jazz composer, saxophonist and clarinettist, who was married to Cleo Laine, and whose children Jacqui and Alec have followed in their father’s footsteps as leading performers of British jazz.

Relish (English)

Relish was first recorded in English as a word during the 14th Century, to refer to ‘taste or flavor’ derived from the Old French ‘relaisse’, meaning “something remaining, that which is left behind”. It is not known when it first appeared as a surname in the UK, but is recorded in small numbers in 19th Century censuses.

MacQuoid (Scottish)

There are only two examples of the surname MacQuoid in the British electoral records. It seems likely that the name is related to MacQuaid (a name still found in Co Monaghan). The meaning of MacQuoid is obscure, and no authority offers an origin (although in Scotland, the name would appear to be affiliated with the MacKay clan).

Loughty (Scottish)

Loughty is considered as a variation of Lochty, the name of two villages in Tayside (one a couple of miles west of Perth; the other about 6 miles west of Brechin).  It is most likely that Loughty, Lochty (also Loughtie) are surnames from a place name. The word ‘loch’ is, of course, ‘a lake or inlet’; and the suffix ‘-ty’ usually signified the diminutive, the implied meaning being ‘of, or by a small lake’.

Surnames linked to locations

Birdwhistle (English)

Birdwhistle relates to any of these ‘lost’ medieval villages: Birtwisle, near the town of Padiham in Lancashire; Briestwistle near Dewsbury in Yorkshire; or Breretwisel near Wath-upon-Dearne (also in Yorkshire). The meaning of the name has been given as a fork or junction on a river where birds nest, from the pre 7th century “bridd – twissel”. It has also been recorded in the spellings Birdwistle, Birdwhistell, Birtwhistle and Burtwhistle.

Berrycloth (English)

This location name is from the place called ‘Barrowclough’ near Halifax in West Yorkshire. The derivation of the place name is from the Old English pre 7th Century ‘beara’, meaning grove, or wood; and “cloh” (a ravine or steep slope). Locational names were distributed around the country when those who bore the name moved from their original homes and went to live or work in another town or village, becoming known as ‘Berrycloth’.

Surnames linked to occupations

Culpepper (English)

Culpepper was an occupational name for a herbalist or spicer, from Middle English cull(en) to pluck, pick and peper (Old English piper – pepper). The prefix ‘cole’ means ‘false’ in some constructions: ‘Coleprophet’ means a false prophet, so another explanation is that Culpepper may mean a ‘false pepperer’, or ‘sham grocer’ i.e., one who traded outside the Fraternity of Pepperers, the Guild whence sprang the Grocers’ Company, incorporated in 1345.

Tumbler (English/Scottish)

The Tumbler was an acrobat and sometimes an acrobatic dancer, often recruited to a nobleman’s court to provide entertainment, though just as often, he would be an itinerant performer. The name has long been shortened, in characteristic English fashion, to Tumber.

Tumbur is mentioned in an Oxfordshire document dated 1276. The origin of the word may be the Old English tombere – a dancer or acrobat, or Old French tombeor of the same meaning. There are a small number of Tumblers located in the area of Strathclyde, Scotland.

Surnames linked to the Calendar

Other British surnames that are within a hair’s breadth of vanishing are those which recall the months January, February, April, June, September, October, November and December.

 BRITISH SURNAMES THAT ARE ENDANGERED – with under 200 bearers in the UK

Ajax (Welsh)

This very unusual surname seems to have arrived in Wales in the late 17th Century. It is possible that the name was brought by Huguenot refugees fleeing religious persecution in France. The Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 and large numbers of Protestants fled the country around that time.

Edevane (Welsh)

A rare Welsh surname, believed to be of Cornish origin. This surname is made up of two elements. ‘Ed’ is not a shortened form of Edward, but derives from the ancient (Old English?) ‘ead’ meaning ‘prosperity’ and/or ‘happiness’. This also gave rise to names like Edmund (‘prosperity protector’), Edward, (meaning ‘prosperity guardian’) and Edwin (‘prosperity friend’). The second element, ‘vean’ or ‘vane’ means ‘little’ or ‘the younger’. The Cornish ‘byghan’ became mutated in the same way as the Welsh ‘bychan’ became ‘fychan’ (i.e. ‘vychan’) when added to a personal name, and performed the same service of distinguishing between father and son where they had the same name. In Wales, this ultimately led to the well-known surname Vaughan. Edevane and variants, therefore, would seem to have the sense ‘the younger happy one’ or ‘the younger prosperous one’.

Gastrell (English)

The original meaning of the surname Gastrell is uncertain. It appears to have a mediaeval Norman diminutive suffix ‘-el’ (which signifies affection), which may be coincidental. There are currently 44 listed in nationwide electoral records (though in the 1901 census 148 were listed – showing a significant decline). The Gastrell family crest is a snarling lion’s head, and the USA has a larger proportion of bearers of the name than the UK.

Gastrell (English)

The name Gastrell – despite its rarity – has the unique feature of being banned in Stratford-upon-Avon. This is owing to the dramatic action of Rev. Francis Gastrell, who resided in New Place (once William Shakespeare’s home) during the 18th Century.  Irritated by the large numbers of passers-by staring at the Bard of Avon’s former residence (particularly a mulberry tree supposedly planted by the poet, which enticed people to trespass and steal cuttings from it), Gastrell cut down the tree and chopped it to pieces. An alternative story suggests that Gastrell believed this action would lessen the value of the property (and the amount of tax he would have to pay).

In an apparent bid to avoid taxes, Gastrell went so far as to have New Place pulled to the ground entirely in 1759. This unforgivable action resulted in Gastrell being forced to leave the town, never to return. To ensure that neither the Reverend (nor his descendents) ever entered Stratford again, a bylaw was passed prohibiting anyone with the name Gastrell from taking residence in the area.

 Slora (Scottish)

Slora seems to have several variations, including Slorra, Slorah, Slorach and Slorrance. There are currently 41 records of Slora, 5 of Slorah and over 200 of Slorach listed in current mainland electoral rolls (which thought to predominate in the Banff and Buchan districts of Scotland). The names are likely to have originated in the Gaelic ‘sluagdach’ (‘leader’) and may initially have referred to the clan elder. The names are associated with Clan Davidson.


 Bread (English)

Bread, as a relic of the occupation of baking, derives from the Old English bregdan (meaning to plait cord or yarn, and was associated with the emerging weaving industry). Geoffrey Braid is listed in 1198 in the Norfolk Fines archive.Though there were Breads in the mid-20th Century, the family is name is thought to have died-out.

MacCaa (Scottish)

MacCaa has many clan associations; the most prominent being with the Stuarts of Bute, the Clan MacKay, the Clan MacFarlane, the Clan MacDonald and Clan Galloway. The name is a phonetic variation of MacKay, meaning ‘son of Aoh (ie the champion)’. Other similar names in the group are MacCaw, MacCay, MacGaw, MacGee and MacKee. There seem to be over 900 holders of the name in the USA.

Spinster (English)

Spinster is the old feminine form of Spinner (itself a rare surname with a nucleus of bearers in the Thanet and Canterbury districts.) The word is Old English in origin – spinnan – to spin thread. It was freely applied in mediæval times to unmarried women, with no family of their own and whose everyday tasks were therefore centred round the domestic spinning wheel. The surname’s earliest record is John le Spinner, Worcester, in 1270.

Pussett, Puscat and Pussmaid (English)

Some mediæval nicknames which look as though they may have vanished from the surname registers within the last century are Pussett, Puscat and Pussmaid. These may now have vanished. Puscat had indeed disappeared from all mainland telephone directories by the end of the 20thcentury and it is some years now since the name Pussmaid last appeared in the Severnside telephone book. Pussett was listed only once in the 2009 Tamworth (Staffs) telephone book. These names were clearly used affectionately and probably most often applied to a little ‘minx’ of a girl by her parents, though a Thomas Pusekat, appears in a Northumberland document of 1256. Pussett illustrates the use of the French diminutive suffix –ett.

Bythesea and Bytheseashore (English)

‘Location’ names that may have gone for good are Bythesea (pronounced ‘Bithersee’) and Bytheseashore (‘Bitherseeshore’). The first was early represented in 1336 by William Bythesee in Somerset. The bearers of these descriptive names would have recalled someone whose abode was close to a lake or pool (Old English sæ – a lake and scieran – an edge or margin) or even a stream.

Why And How Do Surnames Decline?

There are numerous explanations for the decline and disappearance of certain British surnames. Occupational surnames linked to common professions such as Smith and Baker enjoyed a natural head-start when last names first started to be recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries (Henry VIII making it compulsory for marital births to be recorded under the surname of the father): unusual names linked to localised topography or more niche professions were always going to be fewer in number.

In addition, the Napoleonic conflicts and the First World War saw entire generations of young men wiped out: boys who often bore distinctive surnames relating to the villages or hamlets from which they came. Likewise, migration resulted in already rare names leaving British shores, in some cases enjoying a new lease of life in the Americas or Australasia: an unusual trend is for British surnames which had become extinct being recently reintroduced to the UK as a consequence of economic migration by Americans now-resident in London. Another interesting development has been 19th Century migrants, particularly from Eastern Europe, anglicising their names and inadvertently breathing new life into an extinct British name.

A further explanation for decline is developing trends in slang and language, which have given once-innocent names crude or humorous connotations in the modern age, prompting bearers to seek to amend them to avoid ridicule or negative associations.

However in many cases the principal cause for a name dying-out is more linked to simple fate: in less enlightened times, a man with only daughters was guaranteed that his family name would end with him!

If your surname is one of those listed above or you believe you have a rare surname – we’d love to hear from you! (Feel free to write in the comments section of this blog or email

With thanks to William Lewis, author of What’s In Your Surname? (  and to for their research help.

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  • Katie

    April 26, 2011

    McMuldren, my family changed the spelling in the mid-1800s in Scotland, from McMuldroch (itself a rare name). I don’t believe there are any McMuldren’s left in Scotland at the moment, though there are some in the US.

  • Catherine

    April 27, 2011

    My last name is Bobich. It is ending in our family. My brother is done having children so the name will stop with him. I have not found many and cannot trace my great grandfather Thomas Bobich who was killed in a pedestrian accident in Pittsburgh in the 30’s. There is rumor that perhaps it used to be spelled Babich. ???

  • DeeJay

    April 27, 2011

    Craufurd (my maiden name) with that particular spelling seems pretty rare.

  • Linda

    April 27, 2011

    Thank you, I really enjoyed reading this post and have subscribed to your blog. It’s wonderful to trace the meanings of names back, really brings the past to life.

  • laraine smith

    April 27, 2011

    Oh how I wish for a rare name My married name is Smith my maiden name was Greening and I have Walsh, Wilson, Smedley and Day /O’Day in my tree and they are all never ending. Makes it so hard for your doing family tree.

  • Claudia Brackenborough

    April 28, 2011

    My surname is Brackenborough (by marriage) and there seem to be very few of us around as my husband was an only child and so was his father. We have 2 daughters. I would love to know the meaning of the name and where it originates from. There is a village in Lincolnshire called Brackenborough and I know of some Brackenboroughs in Lincolnshire in times past but it is thought that the name originates from Scotland.

  • Rachel Johns

    April 29, 2011

    My research name is Tregonwell – already extinct as a surname. Lives on as a middle name. I have had contact from two guild members who have connections to the name and look forward to other contacts.

  • W H Revis

    May 2, 2011

    Family name and crest not shown on crest builder

  • Peter Coates

    May 18, 2011

    My family name MENAH which came from Larne in Northern Ireland now has only one member. My great Grandfather came over around 1895 and he may have changed the name. I have been unable to trace the family for certain in Northern Ireland. There may be one other family in this country with the name.

  • trevor whorne

    May 21, 2011

    HI my name is Whorne I believe there are under 20 in the UK plus perhaps a similar number in the US, Variations include warne and wharne which I think may be more in number and from what I can see some originate from misspellings in the electoral role in the mid 1800’s

  • John Bisbrown

    July 10, 2011

    Hi, my name is John BISBROWN. I believe there are under 20 of us in the world, with only my son to carry on the name, In 2 generations there have been 17 Bisbrowns but almost all girls.

  • David J Grimshaw

    September 9, 2011

    Hi, I am have been carrying out a One Name Study on the Grimason surname and it’s variations World Wide.
    I beleive that the Grimason / Grimeson / Grimison surname is rather rare, The Grimesey surname is said to be a corruption of the Grimason surname.
    The surname may be a corruption of the Grimson or Grimston/e Surname.

  • Lauren

    September 24, 2011

    Hello My name is Lauren Buttery 😉 just wondering if anyone knows where i can find a rare book of surnames because i would like to know if mine is in there 🙂

    PS. Does anyone know anything about my last name? 🙂

  • Jon

    October 5, 2011

    Does anyone know anything about the name Mylrea?


  • Craig

    October 10, 2011

    Surname Silvie If there is anyone in britain with this name i’m related to them.

  • Andreas Key

    October 18, 2011

    Hi there,
    my wife is Brazilian but her grandmother was called Maria Aquis and she spoke horrible Portuguese (Light blond, really white skin).
    In the 1881 census I was able to find the family of a Edward Aquis living in Hampstead, Middlesex. He was listed to have been born in Egypt and his wife in Malta…
    In the 1861 census I found a John Aquis who is said to have been born in Lincolnshire… (I imagine Edwards father).
    Before that I can only find a Edward in Graitny, Dumfries, Scotland baptiesed in 1767.
    As there ares so few of them it makes me think they were rae then and now extinct in the UK.
    Must be one of the names that went away with the Empire…
    The Brazilian line of the Aquis name also disapeared as their only daughter got maried…

  • Phoebe Barnett.

    October 27, 2011

    Does anyone know a Barnett? It doesn’t sound to me like a rare name but I’d still like to know. Thanks!

  • Jessica Kette

    November 4, 2011

    I have a friend whose last name is Barnett so I dont think it’s too rare. Does anyone know a Kette

  • apellido agnus

    December 3, 2011

    alguien sabe el significado del apellido agnus?

  • Jade Slee

    December 12, 2011

    I’m a Slee – I know there’s not that many people with that name in the UK, so does anyone know any other Slee? Just interested!

  • villava

    February 12, 2012

    search in facebook :p im a villava and it is a rare surname as well. from spain but in philippines and in mexico there is also just 2 families of villava

  • Nik Skeat

    February 20, 2012

    Any other Skeat’s about? Not Skeet, Sket, Skeats or any other version? I’ve not found many, and I seem to be related to all of them. The sad thing is that my son seems to be the youngest, and possibly therefore the last, of that name.
    It’s only a matter of time before the whole of the country is called Smith, Jones or Williams 🙁

  • Gem

    February 24, 2012

    My surname, Thorp, is apparently Viking for ‘village’. ‘Thorpe’ – with an e – isn’t too uncommon, but the variation without one is rarer. I don’t know if this will make the list, but lots of people have said that it’s unusual, especially without the ‘e’.

  • Robert Phillifent

    March 5, 2012

    My name is PHILLIFENT. There probably only two people with that surname in the U.K. Myself and my sister! There maybe another in the USA with that surname but even they are direct relations.
    The name probably originated in Britanny/Normandy and is said to be have come from the French” fils enfant”.
    Please note that our name is ONE syllablel it is NOT pronounced Phillee fent!!

  • Reneisse Lyle

    March 20, 2012

    My last name is Bythesea

  • Liah

    April 1, 2012

    Catherine, whose grandfather was Thomas Bobich, there is a high probability it was Babich, which is a very common surname in the Balkans. Many immigrants anglicized their last names. Also, Ms Kette, Kette is a famous slovene poet. Maybe you have slavic heritage:D

  • Ann McDonald

    April 13, 2012

    I’ve been researching a name in my family tree – De Rippe and various spellings. I believe the last person in England with the name died in the 1890s. I’d like to be proved wrong (The name Derippe is still current in France).

  • catherine nethercoat

    April 14, 2012

    This is such an interesting site, thanks for posting. My married name is Nethercoat. It’s pretty unusual when spelt that way, there aren’t too many around.

  • michael leardodd

    May 21, 2012

    LEARDDODD no other family in the world with this name wish i knew where this came from?

  • Steph

    May 21, 2012

    My grandmas maiden name was Mcsherry, and I’m not sure if it’s common or not because she’s irish and the rest of my family and me are all brittish. is it a comon name for someone in Northen Ireland ?

  • alwena jones

    June 10, 2012

    to Lauren Buttery
    I was at Upton golf club in Chester last night, I noticed the surname Buttery had won a lot of awards.

  • Claire Gyurkikiss

    June 18, 2012

    I’m not from the UK, (but I do have English/Scottish/Irish blood in me) and I have a very rare last name: Gyurkikiss. Well, that’s the changed version. The original was Gyűrki-Kiss and has been that way from the 1100’s until when my grandpa came to the US after the Hungarian Revolution. (The slanted umlaut was removed, then my dad changed it to Gyurkikiss for simplicity’s sake)

  • Adrianna

    July 13, 2012

    My last name is Stegall. Has anyone ever heard of this name before?

  • Victoria Cutrell

    July 13, 2012

    Has anyone heard of the variation of Cutrell? Not Cuthrell or Cantrell…which I’m sure is what Cutrell is derived from. If you know anything about the name, let me know!

    Tori Cutrell

  • SonjaS

    July 13, 2012

    My family surname was originally Spradbarrow but somehow became Sprayberry when they left England for the colonies in the 1741.No idea how or why it was changed.

  • Vitalia Carlino

    August 4, 2012

    Hi I know someone with the surname ROMATET I know it is French but I’m hoping someone will know something because I’m quite curious – I’ve searched it but there isn’t much information on it.

  • Kate Melor

    August 16, 2012

    Hey, has anyone heard of the surname Melor ?

  • SallyC

    September 4, 2012

    I know someone with the surname Mellor Kate but not with the one ‘l’ 🙂

  • Rae

    September 24, 2012

    Look up the name Piety. I’m sure it wuld be in your endangered list. In the mid 1800’s it was mainly concentrated in Kent. Most the Piety family had 90% females so the name is disappearing. My 4 x Great Grandfather Thomas Piety was a convict sent to Australia. He had just one boy and 5 girls.

  • ekless

    September 28, 2012

    my name is donald ekless , I have family recods going back centuries .At this present time there is just two males who are able to continue the name EKLESS

  • pratik vyland

    October 2, 2012

    my last name is vyland….my roots are from britain and netherland…..i know everone else with my surname cause there are related to me…hardly 20 of them….i hope to findsome more people with my surname..

  • dave

    October 12, 2012

    hi – my surname is crumpling, goto be up there with one of the rarest. If you are or know of any id love to here- thanks

  • Thomas

    October 26, 2012

    My surname is Beilby. I don’t know how rare it is but I have never known anyone else to have this surname other than my relatives.
    I have met people with the variant spelling Bielby, but never with the same spelling as me.

  • Molly-Rose

    November 11, 2012

    To Kate Melor
    I know someone called George Melor, I also know his brother but I’ve forgotten his name…oops

  • Courtney

    November 15, 2012

    A few of my cousins have the surname Thorp without the e, not sure how common it is though

  • Joanne

    December 6, 2012

    My surname is Relish – does anyone know anything about this name. Have tried to trace it many times but cant go far enough back.

  • Becca

    December 22, 2012

    I have a friend with the last name Zee, and I thought it was something he made up. And he’s like, nope that’s my name. Zee.

  • Sam

    January 18, 2013

    Hello everyone,
    I’m an American with the surname: “Bedison”. My family has tracked it as far back as the middle 1800’s here in the US, but that’s as far as we’ve gotten. No records exist at Ellis Island, NY (our national port of entry for that time period and earlier). My grandmother told my dad that the name originally came from England. Has anyone ever heard of that name in the UK? And if yes, please contact me at my e-mail address:
    I’d love to get in contact with any long lost cousins in the UK so we can track the family history further back then 150 years.


  • Jessica

    January 25, 2013

    My last name is Murphey. it seems that everyone else spells it without an “E”. if anyone has any information about any other Murphey or any information about the family please contact me at

  • Carol Carter

    January 29, 2013

    Hi, my last name is pretty common but my grandfathers moms last name was Leadbeatter. It’s pretty obvious what trade her family was in but what area of England would it be from?

  • Rebecca

    February 16, 2013

    my surname is Timson-Sheppard and I believe that my sister and I are the only ones who have it in the world:(

  • Faebe

    February 18, 2013

    Is Evason considered rare?


    February 21, 2013

    Deriving from an english midevil period the name RELISH originated from France under the name Releis, which meant as a reference to taste

  • Claudette Floyd

    February 21, 2013

    Hello, I am looking for a surname ,Revada or Roveda .This is my mother maiden name. She is no alive so I started looking for her family. I was told her family were from Spain but I found out they change their surname and were Italian. If any one with either these names ,we need to talk. Please email mail me at Thank you. We may be related.

  • Chris Doswell nee Mosney

    February 22, 2013

    My maiden name is Mosney and my married name is Doswell. Both seem very rare.

  • Karen L Fletcher

    February 22, 2013

    Well, I’m a Fletcher. I reckons there’s thousands of us!!

  • Sally J. Bradford

    February 22, 2013

    My maiden name was Regester and it used to be common in Norfolk but not sure how many are left. My sister and I married so no more in my family. Sally J. Bradford

  • Ann Coffin

    February 22, 2013

    I am Canadian with an unusual surname: Coffin. Funnily enough, I lived for four years in the UK and never once ran into anyone who had heard of the name, even in Dorset where the name originated. Back in Canada, I am always running into people who ask me if I know so and so with the same last name. And they usually not related to me.

  • Philip Shave

    February 22, 2013

    My christian name is Philip and my surname is SHAVE.I am the last male in our family line.

  • Amy Wolstenholme

    February 24, 2013

    My surname is Wolstenholme, I have no idea about its rarity.

  • Colin Sussams

    February 24, 2013

    The family originally lived in the Watton area of Norfolk. My father had two brothers, but he was the only one who had a son. I have one son who lives in London, who also has a son, my grandson. There used to be other families in Norfolk with the same surname who to my knowledge were unrelated. I still live in Norfolk, but know of nobody else with the surname of Sussams. Research shows that people with this surname have lived in and around Watton for at least two hundred years

  • Byatt

    February 25, 2013

    I know there are only thirty byatts in Britain

  • Ez Dyer

    February 28, 2013

    Many of these name are still around in Australia.
    I’ve come across people called Regester, Coffin, Sussems (not Sussams alas) and Beilby.
    There are Mylreas all over Aus. Never come across a Phillifent or Nethercoat though.
    I think there are some Brackenboroughs in Queensland.

  • Matthew Titchiner

    March 2, 2013

    Any Titchiner’s out there? I know it spelt Titchener is more common but still there aren’t many of us and I’m the only one to carry on the family name as far as I know, unless there are distant cousins.

  • Elli Edwards

    March 11, 2013

    my son’s surname is Whyham he is English his father English two families in England share this surnames in America we have found
    just one guy James Whyham … is a very rare surname hopefully my son will have various boys to pass on the surname

  • Nellie

    March 30, 2013

    My maiden name is Coon. As I married and no longer use the name and only my sister uses it, and my parents are deceased too, I imagine it is a rare name nowadays.
    I have many a time been met with a look of complete disbelief when giving my name. People assume it has something to do with racism, or insist on adding an e at the end or changing the spelling to Coombe, or Cook. Hence I decided to stick with my more common married name.
    I would be very interested to know how many people have the name Coon.

  • Jonathan Glasscock

    March 30, 2013

    My surname is Glasscock. I have no idea why it’s dying.

  • Aimee

    April 3, 2013

    Great post.
    Beagrie is my surname, its pretty rare and I would love to find out just how many of us there is. The name by itself will be wiped out from my family as some chose to double barrel with Parker, making them Parker-Beagrie’s.

  • Oliver

    April 4, 2013

    Maiermajer – now more common in Poland and German and possibly extinct in England . I heard many Poles have it , but I don’t trace this back.

  • Louisa Midnighter

    April 4, 2013

    Midnighter – my maiden name . Seems very rare and I don’t know why it would be extinct.

  • Aira Po

    April 12, 2013

    Mine is Po!!!!I would like to know if many ppl use it’,’ ^-^

  • Dan Samsburry

    May 5, 2013

    My name is Samsburry, a name I’ve found very very rare, possibly on the brink of extinction. Living in the US, I have a daughter, no cousins, a brother with no children so my name is probably going to disappear to Smith and other common surnames. Too bad!

  • Skippy Loves HP

    May 8, 2013

    My last name is Skipper. Yes, Skipper. Everyone calls my dad “Skip” and they call me “Skippy”

  • Johnny Bicturd

    May 14, 2013


  • Pamela Schmidt

    May 14, 2013

    There seems to be plenty of my maiden name Giltrow about, but the name Bythesea caught my attention. I wonder if it has anything to do with the tongue-twister I learnt as a child?
    “She sell sea-shells by the sea-shore.
    If she sells sea-shells by the sea-shore,
    Where are the sea-shells she sells, by the sea-shore?”

  • stooof

    June 10, 2013

    gervers is very rare! only 15 people in the u.k have it!

  • Caroline Lamming-Chowen

    June 23, 2013

    Chowen- Cornish name, unusual in the uk now. History of the surname is quite hard to pin down but there is a knited crest

  • david titchiner

    June 27, 2013

    hi mathew titchiner you are not last in line from distant cousin maybe ?david titchiner

  • bangy

    July 11, 2013

    My surname is Stoker easy enough but irksome when misspelt as Stocker would like to know more about my great grandmothers name Hoare

  • CatsEyes

    July 12, 2013

    Carol Carter, I had a teacher named Leadbeatter and she was from West Yorkshire. I think I’ve heard the name a few times around here.

    My surname is Pestel, which I think is quite rare too.

  • Cynthia

    August 2, 2013

    My maiden name is Overbay. I live in the US and don’t know anyone but my family with that name. I lived in the UK for 3 years and did not come across anyone with the same last name, so i was wondering if there was anyone with the name Overbay still in England.

  • Eeeee

    August 15, 2013

    Hi, just wondering how many McKays in the UK, and how many Rodgers (still living- not maiden name if married)?

  • kyle

    August 25, 2013

    My surname is clennell

  • Ann Onymous

    September 3, 2013

    There was a boy with the surname “Birtwhistle” in my year in school in Selsey, West Sussex. (Now aged 22) He’s a nice person but he’s in prison now for drug smuggling. (He was probably trying to impress someone IMHO. Anyways…). I always assumed it was a common name and didn’t think much of it.

    To Jade Slee above, my maternal grandfather’s mother was a Slee! Maybe we’re distantly related 🙂

    I just randomly searched for rarest UK surnames and happen to have connections with two of the names mentioned!

  • Natalie

    October 9, 2013

    My great grandmother’s maiden name was Caffall, which I believe is pretty rare. All from one family in England, historically, I believe. If you search the SSDI Ancestry, it shows only 130 Caffell or Caffall that have had died in the US with social security numbers, and some of those would have to be spouses.

  • E Fraizer

    October 13, 2013

    My name is Fraizer–a very uncommon misspelling even in the U.S., how about in Britain?

  • Lynne Hewitt

    December 18, 2013

    My maiden name was Jaine. I have a brther & male cousins to continue the lineof the Jaine’s in the UK that I’ve managed to find it would seem we are related. Spelt this way the name is rare.

  • caroline dawson

    January 7, 2014

    My maiden name is Coombes

  • Rebecca Frape

    January 13, 2014

    There are only ~ 180 Frapes left in the UK.

  • Charles

    January 22, 2014

    the surname Bacca is a old english surname and the other varations are, Baccus, Bacces, Baccas, Bacchus, Bacchant, Baccen, Back, Backs, Backes, Baccer, Baccans, Bacchan and Backman,

  • Devon Girdwood

    February 18, 2014

    My surname is Girdwood, a very unique and respected name of the Scottish Crown. I do not know if my name is rare or not, i know there are quite a few branches of my family, but all originated in Scotland and the beginning Surname was Girdvod and was later changed to Girdwood.

  • Beatrice Pierre

    March 19, 2014

    My maiden name was Mair and it’s English but my ancestors settled in Jamaica WI.

  • Vivian Miracle Stapivic

    April 1, 2014

    I so glad I found this site. My surname is Miracle and not until finding this blog did I know anything about the name Miracle.
    Sincerely, Vivian

  • Richard Belcher

    April 8, 2014

    My great-grandmother was an Eckerty, they changed their name from what we aren’t sure after immigrating from Switzerland in the 1840’s. There might be 200 in the world now.

  • Jzzy55

    April 14, 2014

    In the US there is a bridge over the Connecticut River called the Dexter P Coffin Bridge, and I believe an historic Coffin House on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. So at least in the colonial era there were Coffins in the US.

  • anon (sort of)

    June 30, 2014

    Stumbled across this list and surprised not to see my own surname on it, Doye. From searching social media sites and census websites it seems my immediate family are the only ones with this name (putting it well bellow 200 bearers). We’re pretty sure it is a version of the more common irish name Doyle but it’s just a guess.

  • Ron Sistern

    July 21, 2014

    Anyone know about the surname Sistern? Having a very hard time finding anything. Possibly English or Welsh? There are only a few in the US.

  • matt

    August 22, 2014

    Last name olsem, Luxemburg?

  • Vikki Miracle

    September 13, 2014

    My maiden name is Miracle. Currently four males to carry on the name in my immediate family. Not sure of how many more in extended family. Vivian Miracle Stapivic my name is victoria miracle didn’t know anything about my last name’s origins either before this! wonder if we are related?

  • Frezz

    November 6, 2014

    How rare is Foreman plp

  • The Mitten State

    November 9, 2014

    RE: Miracle. There is a family in Ortonville, MI with the last name of Miracle.

  • Andrew

    November 16, 2014

    Hopefully people are still visiting this page. After some searching it seems the census data and thus this article is very incomplete. Some of the commenters’ surnames seem to be rarer than anything in the list. Absolutely no record of many except very old 19th C newspaper notices. Bicturd is probably the strangest of the lot and seems absolutely extinct except for a bearer of the name commenting here!

  • Naomi

    November 21, 2014

    I’m a Risley which I haven’t come across in the uk other than my own family and the remand Centre! Lots of Riseleys though.

  • Imogen Patterson (was Binding)

    November 25, 2014

    There are a few rare surnames in my own family. Kitchingside, Upward, Bedward and Binding.

  • brett lee

    November 29, 2014

    lee is lucky surename

  • Pam Town (that was)

    December 8, 2014

    I always thought my maiden name of TOWN was rare as I have never actually come across another one other than family but looking at previous posts I am not so sure now.

  • The last Jones

    December 9, 2014

    Interesting comments and great names. But some are funny. Like the Barnett guy who thought he had a unique surname. Uhh my last name is Jones and I think I may be the last person with that name. Has anyone out there ever heard of the Jones family name?

  • Locksley

    December 14, 2014

    We have a middle name that has been persisting in our family. We don’t know the origin but refuse to give it up, assuming it is a surname that has gone extinct our family tree. My great grandfather was William Locksley Long, his son was Wallace Locksley Long, my mother is Mary Locksley (living)and my name is Locksley Anne (living). My daughter is Marie Locksley (living) and my grandson is Locksley (living).

  • Raeleen

    January 5, 2015

    My mother’s maiden name was Beetson, changed by my great grandfather from Beeson some time after arriving in Australia!

  • William Setter

    January 5, 2015

    My surname is Setter. There cannot be many of them about

  • Doris F. Sawyer

    January 5, 2015

    My family name is Blum, pronounced Bloom. I have not heard of that name and wondered what the origin was. I believe my grandparents (also Blum) were from Germany.

  • Renee

    January 7, 2015

    My great grandmother’s maiden name was Cutting (presumably Cornish). I believe there are a number of Cuttings in USA. Any in Britain? Or South Africa (where I am from)

  • Cath

    January 10, 2015

    I’m a U.S. Coffin cousin. They were a prominent Boston Brahman family, and we’re early abolitionists.

  • Tom K

    January 17, 2015

    Hi, I’m an American, and was quite surprised to see “Culpepper” is so rare in the UK. I even knew one personally in my boyhood. Here in the States, there are close to 12 thousand with that last name. Source:

  • W. Riggs

    January 17, 2015


    I have just browsed onto your site. I understand that there is only one Mr Pimbury left in the world. There’s an article on the BBC website.


  • Caroline

    January 19, 2015

    My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Spanion. I found some othe r Spanions on census records from that era (between 1880-1940), but have not been able to find another one since.

  • Terry

    March 10, 2015

    Hello, our family surmane is on the list….Miracle. 🙂

  • Bill Rushby

    March 16, 2015

    Coffin is a Quaker name, which goes back to Nantucket Island off of the Massachusetts mainland. My wife, of blessed memory, was descended from Mary Coffin Starbuck of Nantucket. See

  • Enid Eborall

    March 18, 2015

    Cant find my name amongsr the list , but interesting to read

  • Ciara S.

    March 29, 2015

    I don’t know if my name is rare but it must be close: Sugden.
    It might not be rare just I never met or heard of another Sugden.

  • MaryEllen Hall

    April 6, 2015

    My husband was the only son of his parents, we had only daughters. It’s interesting because my father in law was the first to have this name. He was an only child. His grandmother gave him his last name from her maiden name. He was born to an unwed mother , In those days this was a scandal.

  • Natalie Brackenborough

    April 29, 2015

    Hi I’m writing this in response to a post from Claudia Brackenborough, who has the same surname as I do. There are many, many Brackenboroughs in the South East of England (Canterbury area). You are correct in your research as the name was originally Scottish. The Brackenborough clan was connected to the Glen Coe MacDonalds and some of them were titled. They were a tenacious clan by all accounts and fought their way into certain areas, taking over. This is how the village in Lincolnshire has the same name. Hope this helps with your research.

  • Jim Gastrell

    June 2, 2015

    The surname Gastrell is on the rare list. There are 8(eight) of us in
    South Africa doing our best to catch up with Argentina and the States. I emigrated from South Wales in 1968 where to knowledge only my mother and brother are the only people with the name Gastrell living in South Wales. There are many more Gastrell’s further north. Please stand up and be counted.

  • Elizabeth Watters

    June 8, 2015

    It is quite interesting reading some of these names. They really make one wonder about their origins. Though, as someone previously mentioned, some of these names are actually quite common here in Australia. For example, someone asked about the surname Foreman. I don’t know about the UK, but that’s not at all a rare name out here; in fact, the mayor of our town has the surname Foreman!

    Now, I know I said I was from Australia, but I’m just curious about something. I have ancestors on my paternal grandmother’s side who were from Denmark/Germany (Schleswig-Holstein, to be precise; at the time of emigration, as far as I’m aware, this belonged to Denmark). They went by the surname Tiedemann, which was changed to Tidemann not long after they came out to Australia. I was just curious to see if anyone bearing that name or a variation might have ended up in the UK – Tiedemann, Tiedeman, Tidemann, Tideman, or any variation, such as with a double ‘d’? I know there are some in the US with the name, so I was just curious about the UK.

  • Carol Zielke

    June 8, 2015

    My paternal grandmother’s name at birth was Vesta. Her name was changed to Rachel but as a young woman she changed it to Rosa Bell. She had a brother named Zelotus. I have never heard of that name.

  • Margaret Sealy

    June 10, 2015

    my maiden is DUBBERLIN.i live in Australia every Dubberlin here is related to me are there any left in the UK

  • Gina Faning

    June 10, 2015

    I am wondering why my surname, FANING was not included in your almost extinct list. As far as I am aware there are only FOUR people with that surname in the UK, myself, my brother, his wife and their daughter, and I have done some worldwide research and only found one other Faning anywhere else in the world and that was in the US.

  • Aalis

    June 17, 2015

    I know someone named McCaa…. Pronounced like McKay.

  • Anonimo

    August 30, 2015

    Im from England mi surname is owlasiuk, english/irish/polish/saxon roots

  • Andrew Parsell

    September 5, 2015

    Love these surnames Mine in Parsell. at the moment. Looking to reinvent myself. My first name could be Matthias. The surname is under thought process. Hate it when people spell my surname wrong. Matthias Town? Matthias McSherry? I know of one name gone from Britain anyway. MacBridge. Looked it up on internet yesterday after rearranging Cambridge out of interest.

  • Cal

    October 11, 2015

    I noticed Birtwistle mentioned. As a child in a small Cumbrian market town, we were the only family of that name and one boy cousin carried the name on. But, when I did my family History in the late 60/70s …. there are thousands of that name in the Rawtenstall area of Lancashire. It seems the Yorkshire ones added the ‘h’ after the ‘w’.

  • Ichangedmyname!

    November 7, 2015

    Three unusual names in my family:


  • Alex Moore

    May 6, 2016

    My grandmother’s maiden name was Draper. Although, it was originally ‘Diaper’ (pronounced di-ar-per) which is of French origin. A great-great (etc) grandfather of mine changed it because people constantly pronounced it di-per.

  • Richard Tiedeman

    May 18, 2016

    A previous comment was made about the name Tiedemann. My ancestors were from the former Kingdom of Hanover, now Lower Saxony. They moved to Minnesota in the 1870’s. During and after WW I there was considerable resentment against German-Americans. My family. hoping to pass as Norwegians, adopted the Norwegian spelling of Tiedeman. I often though of changing back to Tiedemann, but since my mother was Norwegian I thought Tiedeman was a nice compromise.

  • Ian Beagrie

    June 19, 2016

    To Aimee (on 3 Apr 2013, 14:32)
    I carry the family name, Beagrie. Currently there are three living individuals that were born with this name here in New Zealand.

    I may be related to some more in Australia, but have I lost contact with a Margaret nee Beagrie who had done a bit of family research.

    My aunt told me 20+ years ago that there was more than a page full of Beagries in the Edinburgh phone directory.

  • Gloria

    February 22, 2017

    Here in Elizabethtown Kentucky, USA, we have a family of Birdwhistles. One prominent member is an attorney.

  • Joanne Burnison

    June 19, 2017

    Hi! I believe my surname Burnison is rare. That side of my family derive from Orkney hundreds of years ago and it may be an anglicised version of the norse bjarnason.

  • Joanne Burnison

    June 19, 2017

    Peter Coates! I don’t know what the odds are but my uncle through marriage is a Menah! Jonathan Menah. I’m from Bangor Northern Ireland but not sure where his originate (though definitely Irish). Wow.

  • Kim

    July 2, 2017

    How about the name Glaholm think the last time I looked in the phone book there was 11 listed in the UK. And my family in Canada.

  • Ron

    July 5, 2017

    I have my ISRAEL family line back to the mid 1600’s in East London. Not sure there are any there today.
    According to WikiTree, I am related to Queen Elizabeth II

  • Margaret Fowe Bamberger

    July 8, 2017

    Our line of Fowe’s has no more men to carry on the line o Harrison Fowe. My brother passed away, no children and we have 1, second cousin that has no children. I was told our ancestors we from Fowey, England. I found a Fowe who married a man in Northumberland, England, I think in the1800’s. I contacted the Fowey Historical Society and they wrote back, they have no Fowe’s buried in their cemeteries and they have no one of that last name in their records. We have found a lot of Fowe’s in Germany, though. I have found a few Fowe’s here in the U.S., but the are Black Americans and I think they are of the line of a slave who I found on a Tax record in Illinois about 1860. I am having proving we came from Fowey, England. Can anyone help?

  • Dave Sanders

    July 12, 2017

    How do names get changed ?
    My own name is Sanders so was my Fathers but my Grandfathers birth was registered as Saunders then when he married it had changed to Sanders. I asked him about this and he said he fell out with his Father and dropped the “u” so he wasn’t associated with him !!!! I never did find out what they argued about.

  • Pip

    August 15, 2017

    Stegall could be a corruption of Steggles. I had a miss Steggles as a teacher in Watton Norfolk in the fifties.
    She married a Mr Harvey.
    There are a few Sugdens in Hull East Yorks.

  • Chellis Smith Swenson Jensen

    September 20, 2017

    I was given my mother’s surname, as a first name, as no male was left on our family tree to carry it as a last name. The name is CHELLIS. I was told a young couple in France was expecting their first baby and fled the guillotine to England. The baby was named Phillipe Chalis/ce (or similar spelling). He came to the US (strongly suggested on the Mayflower but I have no proof) and had something like13-15 children. Down through the years the last name became Challis and finally Chellis around the Civil War time or earlier. I have a lineage chart that shows that as a last name it came down to 3 branches: one branch died out around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, and my mother’s line ended with her brother who had a daughter. My mother was the youngest, born in 1900 and died in the 1980’s. There is one prolific branch living in the midwest, and I know of a family in the Portland, OR area with the last name of Chellis..

  • Victor

    October 26, 2017

    My family name is Zebedee. The name is slowly dying out. My UK ancestors are from Wiltshire. There are many spelling variations, which I believe are related to spelling mistakes by the family individual or the uncertainty of the census taker or church official. Globally the name alters with the language of the country it is found in.

    Besides the Scriptural association with name, there are Zebedee families who are Israeli/Jewish birth. My DNA has a very low Jewish match. Most likely weakened by cross marriage down the years. My lineage come to a halt with John Zebedee b 1691 in Wiltshire – nothing before him, and nothing after he disappears in 1727ish. His children and descendants are my family.
    If anyone has any information on John Zebedee or how I can determine my Jewish heritage – I will be your friend for ever!

    Thanks VZ

  • Ann Butwell

    October 27, 2017

    My maiden name was Braid ………………… great grat grandfather James Braid moved from Edinburgh to Manchester in the early 19th century. He was a mediocal doctor and did a lot of work on

  • Victoria

    January 11, 2018

    I have some great surnames in the last 4 generations of my tree (Sadler, Mansell, Culleton, Riches & Lewis), however of those recent boys who have had children, most were girls. In my tree we currently only have female living descendants that we are aware of (cousins we can confirm are connected).

  • Janet Arbiton

    March 20, 2018

    Hi – I believe my surname is very rare in the UK since all the research several of the family members have carried out, with Birth,Death and Marriage certificates where they were available – has shown that those with the same surname all share the same line of ancestry. My surname is IVE.

  • Helen Baker

    April 3, 2018

    family name of Tozour difficult to find with this spelling. many derivations, such as Tozer, Tawzer, etc. foujnd.

  • Angela Duthie

    April 25, 2018

    My ancestors name was Death changed to D’Ath in the early 1900s for reasons that are obvious.

  • Dorothy M. Ricetti/ Craigie

    May 24, 2018

    I found it interesting to see Although Surnames were in Britain the USA was included, but not Australia, as some of those Surnames are flourishing very well in Australia. thankyou.

  • claricoat

    June 20, 2018

    My Name is Claricoat I think I am the last one.
    J.R. Claricoat

  • Jen

    July 3, 2018

    I am wondering why my surname is not on the endangered list, when I know that there are only 7 of us in the entire world with this surname – and the youngest generation are all girls, so our name is likely to be extinct within the next 25 to 30 years.

  • Rose Mebane

    July 3, 2018

    My grandmother’s maiden name was Charlotte Sexey originally from Bere Regis, Dorset, England. During the 17-1800’s there were many, many Sexey’s in Dorset. Hugh Sexey was an auditor for Elizabeth I and came from Bruton, Somerset. He started a school for boys there which is still in operation, although I understand girls can now attend. Hugh had no children. My grandmother had 1 brother who had no children so our line has died out. I understand that those left in England have hyphenated the name to other names. The earliest record of the Sexey name I could find was in the 1500’s. There are a few Sexey’s in the U.S. (not our line) who had changed their name from Sexe (probably Danish) to Sexey. There are 2 places in France with the name Sexey. Could the name originally have been of French-Norman descent?

  • Sarah Murray

    July 4, 2018

    My partner’s surname is Roalf. He tells me his family is the only one listed in the phone book. We now have a baby son whom we have given this surname so hopefully it will pass along to another generation.

  • Mark Grace

    July 5, 2018

    I am descended from DUFFKIN (DUFKIN) which went extinct around 1867. Can be traced back to C16th Nuneaton, WAR. Would be interested in similar descendants in case we can identify DNA. Also descended from SHELVOCK which is almost extinct in the UK (have ONS) but survives in the US and elsewhere. Variant SHILVOCK survives around the West Midlands of the UK, although variant SHELVOKE died out this century.

  • Helen Lyons

    July 16, 2018

    My mother’s maiden name was Bladwell, of which there are only about 100 worldwide with the majority in Australia, apparently.

  • Lynette Stuart

    July 17, 2018

    Dear Caroline,
    I just read with interest your information on names dying out. My surname was Frampton and my brother is the last one in our family to have this name, as his son had no sons. His cousin has 3 sons but none of them have sons either. I know there are others in Australia but our particular line is coming to an end. My great great great Great Grandmother was born Look and her son’s second name was Look but none that I know of have inherited this name. Isit becoming one of the lost names?
    Cheers, Lynette Stuart