Urban England in the 1800s.
Urban England in the 1800s.

In 1801, the British government took the first census for Great Britain and Ireland. The population was more than 16 million and the industrial revolution was under way, which debunks any perception of a broadly colonial society. By the late 19th century, England was home to about 300 surnames with traceable genealogy.

England in Context

While human habitation of many parts of the world is sporadic and largely undocumented beyond a few centuries, Great Britain is central to periods including the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age.

Top Names by Total

The 1881 census shows that Smith was the most common surname in the majority of English counties. Jones, Williams, Graham, Thompson, Harris and Atkinson also led in one or more counties.

Top Names by Index

Index population data compares relative concentration of surnames in individual counties to that of the national population. This shows which families have recently experienced upward social mobility and often predicts continued trends. For Essex County in 1881, Allston was the leading name by index. Dacosta led London, Lynds led Kent and Turrill led Oxfordshire.

Family History and Complete Names Lists

Several online websites specialize in family history and have extensive lists of surnames from the 1800s and earlier. Generational documentation is also available and might help connect distant relatives.