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England - Temporal & Geographic Distribution of Spearin variants

UK censuses from 1841 to 1911 are available online (e.g. at www.ancestry.com) and these were searched for the frequency of occurrence of the different Spearin variants. To find out how frequent surname variants are today, the One Name Study list was used. This covers England and Wales combined and is available at the website Surnames of England and Wales - the ONS list.

The most common of our previously chosen variants was Spearing followed by Spearman and Sperring. The variant commonly used by the early London goldsmith family (Spering) decreased over time, and the variant Spearin disappeared completely. Most other common Irish variants get very little mention, although it is likely that the sudden appearance of the variant Spierin in the present day represents a family from the Dublin branch who emigrated to the Liverpool area after 1911. A similar story may explain the gradual emergence of the variant Spearen after 1841.

One gets the impression that many of the variants of Spearin in England may be totally unrelated to the Irish Spearin variants. It's possible that some variants have a single origin for the name, whilst others have multiple origins (e.g. the variant Spearing may have arisen from a variety of different sources. If this were the case one would expect to see several subgroups of Spearing's with very dissimilar genetic signatures on Y-DNA testing). Multiple origins for the same name variant would be particularly likely if the name was occupational in origin (e.g. Smith) and in fact there is some suggestion that Spearing, Sperring, Spering and Spearman originated from 'spear bearer', 'spear maker' or 'spur maker'.

Name \ Source

1841 census[1]

1881 census[2]

1911 census[3]

ONS List[4]

Spearan

0

0

0

0

Spearen

0

4

10

37

Spearin

14

5

4

0

Spearing

371

581

195

989

Spearink

16

17

5

47

Spearman

297

475

153

994

Speiran

0

0

0

0

Speirin

0

0

0

0

Sperin

7

1

0

29

Spering

113

28

15

29

Sperrin

48

95

12

248

Sperring

277

474

103

775

Spierin

0

0

0

12

Sources: 1841, 1881, and 1911 census for England at www.ancestry.com
ONS list from http://www.taliesin-arlein.net/names/. Accessed 8th April 2011.


Archer Software's programme entitled The British 19th Century Surname Atlas (v1.10; available from the GOONS - Guild of One Name Studies) allows us to look more closely at the name Spearin and it's variants in the 1881 census. Click here to see a list of surnames from the census beginning with Spe, Spi, Spr and Spy. One assumes that many of the Spearin variants are in fact deviants and if we searched the 1871 and earlier censuses we would find that the name changes over time largely because of clerical errors.

The most common Spearin variants (with the frequencies of their surname) are in the table to the right. I have split them into two broad groups - the more likely variants of the name Spearin, and the less likely variants.

Prior to the 1841 census, distribution of the variants can be crudely assessed by analysing the International Genealogical Index (IGI) for the frequencies of variants in birth, marriage and death records. For example, according to the LDS website (at https://www.familysearch.org), 33 Spering births were recorded in England between 1800 and 1840, 60 between 1760-1800, 41 between 1720-1760, 31 between 1680-1720, 19 between 1640-1680, and 19 between 1600-1640. This exercise could be repeated and tabulated for the other Spearin variants.

Geographic Distribution using www.publicprofiler.org

The question arises whether or not the common variants all share a similar origin. One way of exploring this notion, is to look at the location for the various variants. We can assume that variants in close proximity to each other are more likely to have sprung from the same source than variants spaced far apart.

The website www.publicprofiler.org was used to generate maps of the distribution of the Spearin variants comparing 1881 data with 1998 data. If there are less than 100 names in the 1998 electoral list, no results are returned. This was the case for all the variants except Spearing, Sperrin, Sperring and Spearman. (This exercise was later repeated with Archer Software's British 19th Century Surname Atlas, v1.10 - see below).

Spearing

In 1881, the highest concentration of Spearings was in the south-east of England. The map shows postal areas but the equivalent counties are roughly as follows (in order of frequency): Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, and Cambridgeshire. There was also a small smattering of Spearings in the Liverpool area.

By 1998, almost 120 years later, the name is much more widespread, and there is a heavy presence at the top of Scotland, but the highest concentrations remain in the Somerset / Dorset area.

Spearin Variants - 1881 Census

More likely variants

Less likely variants

Spearing

574

Spiers

2466

Sperring

475

Spring

1453

Sperrin

97

Spear

1407

Spering

28

Speirs

1175

Spiring

26

Spears

714

Sperrings

23

Spires

615

Spearink

17

Spearman

473

Sperrins

13

Speer

216

Spirring

9

Spier

195

Sperrink

8

Sperry

148

Sperinck

8

Speir

134

Speering

7

Speare

133

Sperryn

7

Spyer

98

Sperinch

6

Speers

92

Spearin

5

Spire

80

Spearen

4

Speary

69

Sperink

4

Sperling

67

Spearon

3

Spyers

55

Speiring

2

Spearey

39

Spearant

2

Sperrey

19

Sperin

2

Spir

19

Sperings

2

Spira

10

Spernon

2

Speerman

7

Spirrink

2

Spirman

7

Spearent

1

Spirling

5

Spearint

1

Spierling

2

Sperron

1

Sprinck

1

Spiering

1

Spyring

1







In London, the highest concentrations of Spearings in 1881 were in the area of Bromley in Kent. There were smaller concentrations around the area of 'The City' (the present day financial district, close to where the London Sperings lived in the 1600's) and toward the west of London (Kensington and Hammersmith area). In modern times, there are still high concentrations of Spearings in Bromley, but the name is much more widespread, with highest concentrations are in West London.

Sperrin, Sperring, Spearman

Distribution maps for the variants Sperrin, Sperring and Spearman are shown below. What is striking about these maps is that all of these variants have a strong presence in the south-east of England, in the same areas as the Spearing variants (or directly adjacent). This is somewhat surprising as it suggests that at least some of these variants are probably directly related to the Spearings from these areas.

There is also the suggestion that some of these variants are NOT related to the Spearings as they have arisen in parts of the country where the Spearings have no presence - for example, the Sperrins of Oxfordshire, the Sperrings of Wales, and the Spearmans of Northumberland in north-east England. The fact that no Spearings appear in these areas in 1881 suggests that these particular people arose from a completely different source. Genetic testing would help confirm or refute this theory.


Geographic Distribution using the British 19th Century Surname Atlas

More detailed results were obtained by using the British 19th Century Surname Atlas, which allows us to generate more complex maps. It is important to note that county boundaries changed over time so it is necessary to compare county maps from today with county maps from 1881. London, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire have all undergone noticable changes. 

To the right are two different maps. Both give details of the frequency of the 16 most common Spearin variants in the 1881 census, by county in the first map, and by Poor Law Union in the second. The counties where these 16 variants most frequently occur are summarised in the table below.


County

freq

Middlesex

10

Somerset

7

Gloucestershire

7

Oxfordshire

6

Staffordshire

6

Surrey

6

Hampshire

5

Lancashire

4

Cheshire

4

Dorset

3

Cambridgeshire

2

However, in terms of density of population (as estimated by the Banwell Index [5], Somerset is the most densely populated county for the surnames Spearing, Sperring, Sperrin, and Spiring, whilst Gloucestershire is for Sperrins, Oxfordshire for Spearink, Staffordshire for Sperrings, and Hertfordshire for Spering.

However, the numbers get quite small and it would only take one large family in the census to skew the calculations. (This is one reason why exploring surnames with less frequent occurrences than these 16 variants would be of limited value). 





Rather than looking at individual surnames, we can look at the most likely Spearin variants as a group. Using this approach identifies 29 most likely Spearin variants from the list of surnames in the 1881 census.

And looking at the distribution of this group across the UK by county and by Poor Law Union reveals that the most densely populated county is still Somerset (Banwell Index 16.7 i.e. almost 17 times the national average) followed by the City of London (5.7), Hampshire (4.6), Gloucestershire (4.1), and Dorset (4.0).

When we look at density of population by Poor Law Union, we see that most of the PLUs are clustered around Somerset and London. However, there are several areas around the country where there is a relatively dense area of Spearin presence which appears quite localised and isolated - islands of Spearin's if you like! There's one in Bromley (Kent), another in Blackburn (Lancashire), one in Oswestry (Shropshire), and another on the Staffordshire/Warwickshire border incorporating the Poor Law Unions of Dudley, West Bromich and Aston (just north of Birmingham).

Looking at Somerset more closely reveals that the most desnely populated areas are Clutton, Axbridge, Chard and Wells, with slightly less dense populations in Barton Regis, Bedminster, Keynsham, Taunton, Langport and Yeovil.

Putting all this together, it looks like many of the variants probably come from the same source, especially as regards those variants in Somerset. However, there is sufficient spread across other parts of England to suggest that some variants in these outlying regions may not be related to each other at all.




Lets look at the Poor Law Unions around Somerset more closely.

Here is a list of each of the PLUs with the predominant variant in each one (looking only at the 8 most common Spearin name variants).

Clutton, Axbridge and Chard are the most densely populated PLUs, but the most people reside in Axbridge (80), Barton Regis (71), and Clutton (64).

Barton Regis and Bedminster have 6 variant names each, whereas Frome, Bridgewater, Taunton, Yeovil and Chard have only one variant.

Sperring predominates in the northern part of Somerset and Spearing in the south. Could this represent two branches of the same family that split apart some time previously, each branch retaining its own particular spelling of the surname? 

Poor Law Union

Variants (with actual numbers)

Barton Regis

Sperring (53), Spering (1), Spiring (6), Sperrins (5), Sperrings (3), Spearing (3)

Bedminster

Sperring (11), Spiring (8), Spearing (7), Sperrin (4), Spering (1), Sperrings (1)

Keynsham

Sperring (6), Sperrings (3), Sperrin (2)

Axbridge

Sperring (66), Sperrin (12), Spearing (2),

Clutton

Sperring (61), Spering (2), Sperrin (1)

Frome

Sperring (18)

Wells

Sperring (26), Spearing (5)

Bridgewater

Spearing (7)

Taunton

Spearing (24)

Langport

Spearing (7), Sperrin (1)

Yeovil

Spearing (14)

Chard

Spearing (45)

Up till now, we have just looked at the most likely variants of the Spearin surname. However, if you remember, at the beginning of this section we also had a list of less likely variants. Here's the table again below as a reminder.



More likely variants

Less likely variants

Spearing

574

Spiers

2466

Sperring

475

Spring

1453

Sperrin

97

Spear

1407

Spering

28

Speirs

1175

Spiring

26

Spears

714

Sperrings

23

Spires

615

Spearink

17

Spearman

473

Sperrins

13

Speer

216

Spirring

9

Spier

195

Sperrink

8

Sperry

148

Sperinck

8

Speir

134

Speering

7

Speare

133

Sperryn

7

Spyer

98

Sperinch

6

Speers

92

Spearin

5

Spire

80

Spearen

4

Speary

69

Sperink

4

Sperling

67

Spearon

3

Spyers

55

Speiring

2

Spearey

39

Spearant

2

Sperrey

19

Sperin

2

Spir

19

Sperings

2

Spira

10

Spernon

2

Speerman

7

Spirrink

2

Spirman

7

Spearent

1

Spirling

5

Spearint

1

Spierling

2

Sperron

1

Sprinck

1

Spiering

1

Spyring

1

If we repeat the exercise with the less likely variants, we see much more spread in terms of density of population. Names like Spear and Speare are predominantly found in Cornwall and Devon (a possible overlap with Spearing in this area?), whereas Spears, Spiers, and Speirs are most heavily concentrated in Scotland and North-East England. Spires, however, is more common in Southern England but there is some suggestion of an overlap with Spears, Spiers, and Speirs which could suggest two separate origins for these variants. Sperry is quite localised to Leicestershire. Spearman is most heavily concentrated in North-East England and Suffolk, but also appears in Devon. This begs the question is there a possible overlap with Spearing in this part of the country?  

So what does all this tell us about the origin of the Spearin surname? Well, there are three main conclusions:

  • The more likely Spearin variants (as predicted) are more likely to be related to each other than the less likely Spearin variants
  • Spearin variants are most heavily concentrated in Southern England with particularly dense pockets in Somerset
  • It would seem reasonable to conclude that in Somerset, many people bearing a Spearin surname variant probably share common ancestry

Is there any evidence of a link between the London Speringes and any of the Spearin variants? In his 1611 will, George Speringe left land to his sons in Kent, Lincolnshire and London. Did this land still have any Spearin living on it in 1881? The short answer is no, except perhaps in London.[6]

This is about as far as we can go with the 1881 census. Fortunately, Bob Spearing has spent hours painstakingly collating information from the LDS website, Google Books, and a variety of other online sources to trace all Spearin families back before the 1851 census. His work takes us further back in time and helps us identify individual families, where they came from and how they spread across England from the 1500's onwards. This incredible piece of work is summarised in the Traditional Genealogy section entitled Spearin families identified so far



[4] Accessed 24 Mar 2011. To find out how frequent your name is today in England and Wales, go to the website Surnames of England and Wales - the ONS list. This site has an extract of an Office of National Statistics [ONS] database, and contains a list of surnames in use in England, Wales and the Isle of Man in September 2002. The entire database contains over a million surnames, shared by 55.9 million people, but names shared by fewer than five people have been excluded from the list.

The database was established in 1998, and births are continually added, but the 1.5 million deaths between 1998 and 2002 have not been weeded from the system. Experience suggests that multiplying the result for your surname by 0.93 will give a good idea of the living population for your surname, and that multiplying by 3.5 will give the population since the start of parish registers in the 16th century.

[5] The Banwell Ratio or Index is described in Colin Rogers, 'The Surname Detective' (1995) pp.21-22: "The aim is to obtain a figure for each surname within a specified ... area which will indicate how far it is above or below the number which you would expect from an even distribution". It can be calculated as follows: Let X be the number of occurrences of the surname in the selected county, divided by the total population of that county. LetY be the total number of occurrences of the surname in the census, divided by the total census population. Then the Banwell number is Xdivided by Y

[6] In the will of George Speringe (1611), the following lands and properties are divided amongst his heirs:

  • Tenements and land in the parishes of Stansteed Ashe, Kent (left to Nicholas) - in 1881, there were Spearings and Sperrings in Bromley but this is 5-10 miles from Stansted.
  • Lands in Spalding, Lincolnshire (left to Nicholas) - in 1881, there were no Spearins nearby
  • 3 parcels of freehold land in Stepney (left to Nicholas) - there were Spearins in the PLUs City of London and Stepney in 1881
  • Tenements, cottages & lands in Stabenhoatey alias Stepney (to Nicholas) - as above
  • Tenements in St Andrew Undershaft, London (to William) - as above
  • His current dwelling house and 4 cottages in Shaft Alley, London (to George, held by lease from the wardens and commynaltie of Rochester Bridge, Kent) - as above



What to do now?

Please feel free to email us suggestions, modifications and additions to this page. Specific areas where you could help include:

  1. Do you know any additional interesting facts or links that could go on this page
Maurice Gleeson
Sep 2011

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The Spearin Surname Project at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~spearin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
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Last update: Sep 2011

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