According to the Guild of One-Name Studies in London, this research involves the study of the genealogy and family history of all people with the same surname and its variants. You can find more information at their website www.one-name.org .
Most of us start with ourselves and go back in time creating what is called an ancestor chart of our direct ancestors, or we look for all the descendants of an ancient relative of ours. Many of us also record any instance of a surname in an area hoping to later connect them to our tree. For example, when reading parish records in Norfolk, I write down people with the names BRETT or HAYLETT. I assume someday I will figure out how they are related to me. One-name studies build on these informal notes, but are much more.
The Guild site gives you guidelines about what names are appropriate for a one-name study, obviously not ‘Smith.’ Frequency, both too few and too many occurrences, is the chief criteria, it seems. The site also has a very good section about the origin of surnames – occupations, place names, etc.Perhaps most useful is their list of surnames that already have studies started on them. Almost 8000 names have been registered by 2500 researchers. I struck out with six of my Norfolk names, but I found that DALGLIESH, the fictional detective, is being studied. By clicking on the name, I found a page detailing the progress of Steven Daglish.
This society has meetings and produces journals, all described on the site. In this electronics age, surprisingly, there is an 800 number for use by North Americans 1-800-647-4100. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org.One of these 2500 researchers may have information on your branch of the family so check it out.
©2011, Susan Lewis Well