The Guild of One-Name Studies is the worldwide centre of excellence in one-name studies and promotes the interests of both the individuals and groups who are engaged in them. Established in 1979 and registered as a charity in 1989, the Guild provides its members with the means to share, exchange and publish information about one-name studies as well as encouraging and assisting all those interested in one-name studies by means of conference, seminars, projects and other activities.
In the 1970s, there were a few societies specialising in a single surname study. The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS), newly formed in 1974, encouraged one-name groups to connect. At their request in 1975, the late Frank Higenbottam started a card index of one-name studies. This was taken over in 1976 by Col. Iain Swinnerton, who, after a thorough review, first published it in 1977 as the Register of One-Name Studies. By this time, over a third of the Federation’s member societies were one-name groups and organisations.
The first weekend conference on one-name studies was held in Leicester in May 1978. At that conference, it was decided that a new organisation for ‘one-namers’ should be launched, and the Guild of One-Name Studies formally came into existence on 1 September 1979 at a meeting in Plymouth.
The new organisation was set up as a guild. The founders were keen to liken members to skilled craftsmen. They also felt that the acronym GOONS would be memorable, and would ensure that members didn’t take themselves too seriously.
Since its formation of the Guild has continued to publish a Register of surname interests. Annual editions of the Register are published in paper form and circulated to genealogical institutions and public libraries around the world. The Register is also available as a searchable database on this website. The main purpose of the Register is to enable individuals who specialise in researching specific surnames to have their interests on record.
The objectives of the Guild of One-Name Studies, as laid out in the Constitution, are:
- to advance the education of the public in one-name studies (defined as research into the genealogy and family history of all persons with the same surname and its variants); and
- to promote the preservation and publication of the resultant data, and to maximise its accessibility to all interested persons.
The Guild of One-Name Studies was founded in the United Kingdom. However, as an organisation, it has always been keen to extend its membership worldwide and currently has over 2,600 members in thirty countries around the world. Some of them are very experienced and knowledgeable about family history research and one-name studies; most are extremely enthusiastic and keen to help other people extend their knowledge and further their research. It is therefore very likely that one of our members may be able to help you.
As a family historian:
If you have a surname in your family that is being studied by a Guild member, then s/he may well be able to provide you with valuable information and insights about the name and perhaps your own connection with it. You can find out which surnames are being studied from our online Register, where contact details are listed for over 8,400 surnames and variants being researched by members of the Guild.
As a potential Member of the Guild:
Perhaps no-one is researching the surname you are interested in? Are you passionately interested in that surname? Are you committed enough to consider registering the surname yourself as a Guild registered one-name study? Perhaps you would like to see what is involved in starting a one-name study.
Not that committed at the moment?
The Guild also welcomes applications from the broader family history community, including those undertaking DNA surname projects, family historians researching a family name on a restricted basis, local historians, librarians, archivists, and those from academia, all of whom may benefit from the learning opportunities. In other words, membership is open to anyone with an interest in one-name studies. Undertaking a one-name study is not a pre-requisite for joining, nor a requirement of membership.
The Guild’s Constitution excludes organisations from joining the Guild, though encourages organisations (such as one-name societies) to nominate one or more individuals to represent them. Such members have the same rights and responsibilities as any other Guild member.
For organisations or individuals who are unable to join, the Guild offers the ability to subscribe to the Journal and Register. Such subscriptions currently cost the same as membership though they do not attract any membership benefits such as an entry in the Register of One-Name Studies.