What Is The Guild of One Name Studies All About?

Researching your family history can be an interesting and worthwhile hobby. The Guild of One Name Studies looks at individual surnames, (and its variants), and they can help people further their own family history research.

What Does Your Surname Mean?

In this post I want to show you all about the Guild of One Name Studies and how they can help you with your family history research.

Also, I will show you how to begin studying the last names in your family tree, how to join this really helpful guild and what publications that you can purchase to help you along the way.

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About The Guild of One Name Studies

The Guild of One Name Studies, (abbreviated as GOONS), was founded in Britain in 1979. Its headquarters are located in London, England.

Credit:   Guild of One-Name Studies

Although it is a UK based charitable organization it does have members all over the world.

To date the guild has 2500 members worldwide.

Where are these members from?

Most members are located within the U.K., although there is a considerable amount of members that are living within North America, Australia and New Zealand.

As the guild is a charity it has no employed staff. It gets its funding from the Halsted Trust.

This trust was originally set up to help promote one name studies.

The Guild’s Aims:

  • To promote the public understanding of one name studies, and
  • The preservation and accessibility of the resultant research.

Brief History of the Guild

The guild was borne out of a need to set up a group which concentrated solely on the study of an individual name.

The group was formed by the members of the Federation of Family History Societies.

The FFHS was founded earlier in 1974, but three years later in 1977 it was discovered that a third of its members were one name societies.

With this in mind it was unanimous that a guild was thus needed for the research of individual names.

It was decided that this group would be called a guild due to the inspiration from medieval guilds.

The guild also wanted to have the acronym GOONS, after the British radio comedy The Goons.

What Is A One Name Study?

While you research your family tree you will come across many different surnames. If you are like me you will want to know each and every branch of your tree.


With one name studies however you just look at the branches with one particular surname in mind.

Pinpoint your research!

When researching a particular surname you may wish to confine your research to a geographical area, perhaps to a town or country.

However, in order to join the guild you will need to commit your research on a global scale.

You may draw inspiration for this type of research from a branch within your family tree.

Once you have decided on a name you can research everyone with that same last name. You will thus be looking at all occurrences of the name as well as any variants.


Researchers of this particular type also delve into the origin and the meaning of the surname.

This can bring up some interesting results. This research may in fact help you further trace the line of your ancestors.

DNA testing and social media help!

Members have also taken to DNA genealogy research to widen their results. This ‘new’ area of research can really help you to further expand your knowledge of your family tree.

Please check out my The Best Genealogy Sites For Your Family History Research post to help you further.

As well as DNA the group looks at online social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

The aim of using these tools is to make connections between people.

How To Begin Your One Name Study

You may decide that you want to conduct research on an unusual and odd sounding surname. As a result you may also  want to find as many different occurrences of the name as well.

How To Begin Your One Name Study

How common is your name?

To begin your research you will want to know how common your chosen surname is, or maybe how rare it is.

For this there is a really useful online tool that you can use. The ONS List looks at the rarity of surnames found in England and Wales.

There are over a million surnames within this database, which is shared by more than 50 million people.

If you are conducting your research within the United States then you can visit the US Census Bureau Genealogy Page.

You may wish to use a map when you start your one name research.

Using a map can greatly help you as you plot your chosen name and see the distribution of the name.

Get Help From Others!

When researching your family history you may have enlisted the help of your immediate family and distant cousins.

Doing so can help you immensely further your results.

As many of you may know it can take time to trace out your family tree. Many of us therefore will take kindly to help along the way.

The same can be said about the study of a single name.

So, if you can find anyone that is interested in the same name then I suggest that you take advantage of this.

If you do have a group of people then you could form a society.

Similar to your own genealogy research you must be prepared to learn new skills and maybe ask for guidance as well.

There Is No Right Way!

When you began researching your ancestry you may have decided to research a particular person.

Or, you may have decided that you would start on just one branch before moving onto the next branch within your tree.

So, it is no surprise here that there is no right way when it comes to this type of research.

It really depends on whatever you want to know.

3 Factors to consider:

  • The size of your study,
  • The objectives that you set out for your study, and
  • The resources that are available to you, such as time, equipment and your skills.

Even though there is no right or wrong way to conduct a one name study there are seven broad activities within this type of research.

7 Pillars of Wisdom:

  1. Data Collection,
  2. Analysis of Collected Data,
  3. Synthesis From Collected Data,
  4. Responding To Enquiries,
  5. Publicising Your Study,
  6. Publication of Your Study, and
  7. Preserving Your Study.

Following this approach will help you fulfill the aims and goals of your research. As I have pointed out before the study of one names is very similar to genealogy.

You will collect your information and try to make sense of it all. After all of this you will want to tie up any loose ends.

And finally you may wish to publicise your work.

Doing so will help to preserve the information that you have found for generations to come.

How To Join The Guild

Anyone can become a member of the Guild of One Name Studies. When joining you can register the surname that you are interested in researching.

Family History Society

However, you cannot register a surname that is already being researched.

Also, registering a surname is not a condition of membership.

Many studies being conducted!

At present there are over 2000 studies being conducted, with 8000 surnames and variants being researched.

Since the Guild’s inception back in 1979 many members have since died.

And subsequently as a result their research has ceased to continue.

A fifth of the members within the guild present their research through the society’s website.

Members can also publicise their studies on the website through their profiles.


Meetings are regularly held, (within England), which discusses the methods that advice is given for this type of research.

A listing of these meetings can be found on the society’s website, its forum, and at seminars and annual conferences as well.

I did point out that as members have died since the society was formed so has their research.

However, there is a repository called the Guild Archive which stores these members studies.

So, you could in fact carry on someone else’s work.

Their Publications

The Guild publishes a Journal of One-Name Studies quarterly, and has been doing so since 1982. A Register of One-Name Studies is also published annually which lists all the registered one name studies.

Family History Books

There are also booklets containing advice for its members as well.

My Final Thoughts

Conducting this type of research can be beneficial in a number of ways. As you may be collaborating with other members you will gain useful skills and also learn of resources that are available to you and how you can use them.

This is something that may not be open to you if you were working on your own.

Also, by conducting this type of research you will be helping other people who are interested in the same name as yourself.

You will therefore be furthering their own genealogy research.

How I have helped others!

Since learning about my own family history I have become interested in helping others within this hobby.

Hence, the creation of this website where I give useful guides and tips to the beginner as well as the more seasoned genealogist.

So, if you are just beginning or you have been tracing your family history for a while this is definitely something to consider.

Not only will you be helping yourself but you will be helping others.

That definitely is something to work towards isn’t it?

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this post explaining exactly what the guild of one name studies is all about. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

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