Family name origins

“Myers” is an odd name; not only can nobody spell it, but its origin is a little murky. My own family is no help at all, because apparently my father’s side emigrated to the US sometime in the 17th century and then spent the next few hundred years wandering around and completely forgetting where they came from. I had a vague notion that they came out of the UK somewhere, with some Scots/Irish admixture, but the name itself…who knows?

So I plugged “Myers” into this database of name frequencies in the UK, and it spat back a map of where that name has an above-average likelihood of occurring.


Yorkshire and the Northwest? Really? I’m going to have to work on my accent.


  1. ajbjasus says

    Eh up PZ lad, it’s reet grand to see tha comes from God’s (Whoops) own County.

    Ahs’ll sithee soon

  2. says

    Manchester / Stoke-on-Trent / Birmingham / Norwich / Ipswich / Gloucester/ Bristol/ London / Portsmouth / Torbay

    Kind of surprised mine didn’t result in a completely orange map.

  3. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    If you want an excellent resource for the local accent here in’t Naaarth, I’d suggest looking up Scumbelina by Legz Akimbo (by the League of Gentlemen) if you can find it. It’s an entirely accurate and not at all inaccurate representation of us Naaarthuners. Python’s Four Yorkshiremen is also the epitome of accuracy.

  4. sqlrob says

    not only can nobody spell it

    I’ve found that varies, interestingly enough, geographically. If someone is from the NW (US), they generally spell it incorrectly. S and SW spell it right.

    /no relation?

  5. jacksprocket says

    Myers is from Old English “mi ers”, an aphetic version of “min ers”, which in Yorkshire dialect is a reply conveying deep skepticism. The north west bit is the Lake District, Wordsworth’s favourite haunt, which explains your romanticism.

  6. HappyHead says

    My last name gave a single orange dot centred just over the city my grandfather said he was born in, and practically nothing anywhere else. My other grandfather’s last name did the same thing, but one town over.

  7. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Aha, wow, my map is preeeetty red. Northern Ireland & North-Western Scotland are low… everywhere else? We’re EVERYWHERE. Which is not a surprise – I could give you my surname without any concern. Hell, I could give you my first and middle names too, and city, and there’d still be a significant number of us to choose from. It’s the old anonymity through ubiquity principle. Is that a principle? It should be a principle.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Main concentration seems to be between York and Middlesbrough, so pretty much within the old North Riding, and the newer North Yorkshire.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    And the cluster of Grigjani that were in Leeds until the late sixties doesn’t show up at all! Rubbish.

  10. redwood says

    Scads of British surnames on both sides of my family. We seem to be mostly in the middle and east of England. The name of my great-grandfather, who moved from Kent to Australia, was indeed centered in Kent. When I tell my Aussie friends that his son then moved to the US, they can’t believe anyone would do that until I explain it was to try to reconcile with the half of his family that had become Mormon and had moved to Utah. That didn’t work out, which must be why I’m the unrepentant infidel that I am.

  11. steve1 says

    Leeds for me. My family migrated to North America in the 17 century as well. I was able to track my family surname thru the country over the centuries… Arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 to Connecticut to New York to Minnesota to Wisconsin to Illinois and finally to Florida.

  12. says

    I also checked my wife’s name and my mother’s name, all good Norse/Swedish names. They didn’t show up at all! Shocking that England has neglected their Viking heritage.

  13. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I was surprised to see my surname have high frequency in northern Cambridgeshire. I’ve always thought the family was from Germany, and the spelling was changed here in the USA (say in Pennsylvania Dutch area).
    My mother’s maiden name gave no data, but then I heard they came to the colonies from France circa 1700.
    The Redhead also came up no data.

  14. says

    Huh. I checked my British great-great grandad’s name, and the whole lower part of the map, bright red, with a good sized red spot way up at the top, well past Aberdeen.

  15. Becca Stareyes says

    My family’s from Ireland and Dad has been trying to track down how our family became Catholic*, because our surname is Scots-Irish. Correspondingly the frequency is centered around Derry in Northern Ireland and a bit around Dundee and East Scotland.

    (I put in Mom’s surname, which is Anglicized Irish, but it pops up around Glasgow, with only a bit around Belfast.)

    * Not so much any more: we have a lot of atheists, agnostics and humanists.

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    Shocking that England has neglected their Viking heritage.

    They haven’t. They just changed it a bit. Example: in names like Braithwaite or Postlethwaite, the ‘thwaite’ is a Norse element. Lots of others.

  17. DrewN says

    The surname on my father’s fathers side of the family is focused like a laser pointer on some small towns just north of Lincoln, my father’s mother’s side of the family seems to have come exclusively from Belfast (A bit surprising because I’d thought his side was mostly English & Welsh)
    My mother’s side (paternally) is either from Glasgow or a small costal town due south along the southern coast of Scotland. (no big surprises there) My mother’s maternal line is from either Birmingham or London.

  18. nahuati says

    There is lots of red on Wales for one of my family names and no data on the map for the other. Interesting!

  19. blf says

    Huh. My own surname centres bang on Leeds, with an outlier south of stroke city in Northern Ireland. Since I’ve never taken the slightest interest in the matter, I’ve no idea how that compares to the “research” some of my relatives are known to have done.

    Assumingly, just for kicks, I entered the surname of a very good friend of mine. It also centres bang on Leeds, and is apparently very rare everywhere else. I think she’ll get a giggle out of that…

    And a handful of locations light up for Doctor.

  20. says

    blf @ 24:

    And a handful of locations light up for Doctor.

    Heh. There’s a veterinarian in Bismarck, Dr. Tim Dokter, runs Doc’s Veterinary Clinic.

  21. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Among all the family names I know about, we’ve got most of the island of Great Britain covered. I was surprised with the strong Welsh presence on my father’s side, though I probably shouldn’t have been.

  22. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Surprised to see my mother-in-law’s very Spanish name showing up strong in the Lake District.

  23. Rich Woods says

    Two red spots in the mainland UK for my surname, one in the Borders area between Edinburgh and Newcastle and the other right where I was born. Which has to be a fluke, because no-one before me and my brother came from there — our family (on my dad’s side at least) comes from Yorkshire and we’ve been able to trace the gradual movement of two centuries of ancestors along the coast from Dorset and up to Humberside (all of them sailors and chandlers living in port towns).

    The biggest red spot, though, is in Northern Ireland. I wonder if that was anything to do with the Cromwellian Plantation, which included a large number of Scottish Covenanters? Many Irishmen were executed or transported to the West Indies, with the Scottish soldiers marrying local women, so new surnames would take hold very easily. Ah, and a quick Google shows that there was another big migration from the Borders to Northern Ireland in the 1680s too.

    Very interesting. Thank you, PZ.

  24. friendsofdarwin says

    West Yorkshire, eh? I always wondered how Maureen managed to coax you to Hebden Bridge.

  25. Owen says

    Good to see so many of you hail from my home town of Leeds. Nails my maternal grandparents’ roots on the north yorkshire coast, too

  26. cartomancer says

    My surname is very rare indeed. When I put it in there are three “hotspots”, the most prominent of which is centred slap bang over the very sparsely populated region of rural Somerset where I live. I’m guessing the four of us in my family account for that, since it’s not a local Somerset name. If four people can produce a blob that big then I’m beginning to wonder how useful this thing actually is!

  27. numerobis says

    My name is in Birmingham, Leeds, and East Anglia. My paternal grandmother’s name is from East Anglia, Birmingham, and Manchester. They met in Kentucky.

  28. numerobis says

    Oh, and my mother’s name is from Birmingham and Dundee, and her mother’s from Gloucester.

    Except I’m pretty sure her name is from Quebec, with a slight possibility it was imported from France. Her mother’s name could be a misspelling of a common english name imported from New England, or it could be a French original.

  29. mod prime says

    You now have to pick a side. Of the Pennines. No mortal can exist in a superposition of Lancashire and Yorkshire :D

  30. says

    Well, my mother’s family name was Corlett. She came from the Isle of Man, and we traced her family back to the 17th century. It goes along with all the names starting with “Qu” and “C” on the Isle, most of which can be traced to the Icelandic Vikings using it as a port from the 9th century with lots of intermarrying going on. (Apparently the “Th” sound, example “Thorkil”, changes to a “C” or “Qu” when said by Gallic speakers.)

    BUT when when “Corlett” is plugged into your UK name base, it insists that the name is clustered around Portsmouth and North Yorkshire.

    (Fun fact. Family lore insists that the Corletts and the Christians family intermarried for generations, and that the Lieutenant Fletcher Christian of the Mutiny on the Bounty fame was a family member. Also Captain William Bligh was married to a woman from Man who was another cousin Small island, you take what fame you can get.)

  31. says

    ” woman from Man who was another cousin PERIOD Small island, you take what fame you can get.)

    Recovering from hand surgery, typing is still a little wonky. Also brain on painkillers.

  32. Kevin Anthoney says

    Yorkshire and the Northwest? Really? I’m going to have to work on my accent.

    And your cricket!

    A search for “Anthoney” shows nothing at all around Teesside, which is where I was born. I guess Middlesbrough in the early 70’s wasn’t a place you hung around in if you could get out. I did a bit of research into my family history and there was a guy in Tynemouth who had an awful lot of little Anthoneys, so it’s surprising there’s nobody there either.

  33. screechymonkey says

    Yorkshire, you say?

    Next week, on All Creatures Great and Small, James and Tristan are both desperate to avoid having to treat the Myers family’s uncooperative cat….

  34. Bernard Bumner says

    Goodness me – that isn’t the Northwest that’s Cumbria. The Northern North. The Western West. Almost Scotland. Or Narnia.

    It is a different world to Lancashire, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside.

    Yorkshire is also a mythical place.

    You’re descended from Faerie folk.

  35. Rich Woods says

    @wiliamgeorge #42:

    Cloth ears, more like.

    Ah, this post has really brought the old family banter back to life. Yer daft apoth.

  36. Nick Gotts says

    As I expecteed, my name produces an intensely red area in north-east Norfolk, otherwise all at a low level.

    My maternal grandmother was born Myers, in Yorkshire.

  37. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    Amazingly accurate.

    My father was born in Barnsley, just outside of Leeds. This is the centre of a circle of Whitfords.

    But his father was born in Cornwall, which on the map is pure red with Whitfords.

    I guess Whitfords have historically shuttles between Leeds and Cornwall, and not stopped anywhere else, save for a small colony around Dundee.

  38. Artor says

    Hey PZ, it looks like my relatives and yours were neighbors. The concentration of Hodgsons is almost in the same places as Myers. But those no-account Hodsons all moved down to Birmingham.

  39. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Bah, my German name with an umlaut in it only returns NO DATA all over the UK. Even replacing the umlaut Ö with OE nets the same result.

  40. dianne says

    My last name returns “WTF are you talking about”. Well, it’s an obscure name, even for Germany. A matrilineal name returns a fair number of hits in London and a couple of other cities. The name in question is Garcia. Almost as though Britain has had migrants for a long time and has coped with them without crumbling to pieces and the claim that they can’t handle adding a couple of Syrian names is a bunch of BS.

  41. birgerjohansson says

    That region had a substantial influx of Scandinavians during the viking age (hence “York”, oiginally Jor-vik, Jor Bay).
    Also, quite a few of your ancestors might have been killed by the original “reavers” from north of the borders (hence the expression “bereaved”).
    BTW there is a series of detective novels about wossname, coppers investigating crime around the sheep-infested zone of the Pennine Mountains, smack in the middle of the Myers ur-heimat
    (yes, I know, people in the Rocky Mountains would not recognise those hills as mountains but the British have to settle for what they have got rather than what they might have wanted. Like, the South is not exactly the Riviera but people go to the beaches all the same).

  42. birgerjohansson says

    I vote we ensure there will be a LOT of Syrian surnames in UKIP-infested regions!
    Let’s see, last year Swedwn received 160 000 refugees for a population of 9 million. Many were not granted asylum, so let’s say the net population increase was 1 per cent. For Britain, that would be more than half a million. Since the UKIP leader went to Moscow to hobnob with Putin and praised Russian values, I suggest Britons who feel overwhelmed can find a home in mother Russia! They want more xeno- and homophobes, and the cossacks are like western football hooligans.

  43. graham says

    “Shocking that England has neglected their Viking heritage.”

    We certainly haven’t when it comes to place names. I was born just south of Liverpool where the Viking presence is marked by place names ending in -by: Irby, Frankby, Greasby, Helsby etc. Our village school had a Viking ship for its badge and the next settlement along was called Thingwall; a ‘Thing’ being a Viking parliament.

  44. ajbjasus says

    Yup – lot’s of viking references round here, and I am often struck by how close Northern dialect and vowel sounds is to Scandinavia. Here’s an example – one often hears “laik” for play – as in “let’s go out an laik football”. This comes from “lek” which means “play” – as in “fahrtlek – a playful journey – and distance running training method.

    Check this out too – i wone=dered why Thorpe was known as the hidden village but its where all those folks hid from the reivers !

  45. birgerjohansson says

    The Inspector Banks books by Peter Robinson are set in Yorkshire. Lots of dangerous people in the area correlated with people named Myers…

  46. Kimpatsu says

    Work on your accent, PZ? Try Officer Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules) from the BBC whodunnit drama Death in Paradise. Pure Jamaican, mon!

  47. says

    Ach.. Seems I am from a wee bit north of that, or.. England’s dairy air, or somethin… lol Seriously though, I have something of the same problem. There are multiple ways to spell my last name, and the one I have is the, “How do your spell that then? Ah, well, lets put two lls and two tts on it then.”, version – so.. there is like no way of knowing which damn branch from the family I am actually from. Where, if it has fewer letters I would have some chance of being in either the main one, which would have sat on the boarder and stole sheep from your ancestors (or possibly killed them a lot, depending on which some of the Scottish border we where each on), or.. been one of the other less direct and scattered bunch.

  48. Rob Grigjanis says

    Hairhead @45:

    Barnsley, just outside of Leeds

    It’s half way to Sheffield! Practically another country.

  49. Trebuchet says

    Lots of planets have a North.

    I’ll have to do some of my family surnames and see what I get.

  50. neuroturtle says

    Roundabouts Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Cool. I always thought our claims to Irish heritage were wishful thinking. All the other family names are eastern European. (Except for the Macbeths, and, well, you know what happened to them.)

  51. Andrew van der Stock says

    No one in Australia would have any problems writing your name. We have a very large department store chain called “Myer”, which used to be called “Myer’s”, established by Sidney Myer. Apparently, he anglicised his name, which was common for the time. There’s a possibility that your name is an Anglicism of Meyer or similar. There are a fair few Jewish folks in the area you have found in the UK (including some of my relatives), so don’t discount the possibility that your forebears were of a Jewish origin.