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The Soldier in later Medieval England

Search Tips

You can search through each database field using the drop down box. Here are some tips:

You can look for exact matches, for instance typing John and searching in the First Name field will find all soldiers named John.

You can use fuzzy searching. To do this, type Jo* and search in the First Name field. This will give you all first names beginning Jo.

For people with a double barreled surname, for instance Fitz Alan, typing Fitz and searching the Surname field will bring up all those with surnames beginning Fitz.

Finally, on the search result page, clicking on the title of a column will sort the results via that field.

More detailed search tips (prepared by Adam Chapman):

Though the first names in this database are generally standardised where the orthography allows this, the surnames have retained their original medieval spellings. This can be a handicap to searching but most problems can be worked around. To perform a surname search, use the drop-down and select ‘surname’.

Vowels

The letter ‘i’ is often used interchangeably with ‘y’, e.g. Smith and Smyth

‘e’ is frequently added to the ends of names in place of ‘y’ in modern usage, or simply because of scribal preference. It is also often used where we might employ an ‘a’.

‘ai’ often stands in for ‘ay’ and ‘our’ for ‘er’ (the influence of French spelling) – Taillour (rather than ‘Taylor’) is the classic example of this.

Searching

For some names, their current form may be a shortened or diminutive form of an earlier toponym (i.e. a name derived from a place). Spellings related to places are notoriously unstable in this period as they might vary from generation to generation. In some areas (notably Wales), such names were relatively unusual and are thus more reliable – though not wholly so – than

For this, the site has a ‘fuzzy search’ facility, which makes use of asterisks in conjunction with specific syllables. If you take the first syllable of a name like ‘Geden’ for example, you enter it into the search box as Ged*

Using the first three letters is also a good approach. If your name contains double letters, e.g. ‘dd’ then just use one before the asterisk. You can also place the asterisk before the syllable.

Many of these rolls appear to have been compiled by clerks simply asking the name of the soldier so there is much scope for phonetic variation. This does not necessarily explain the spelling but it can help.

Limitations

Surnames were not necessarily inherited in this period, particularly if a person moved. A real example: Roger le Couper, (as in ‘Cooper’, a maker of barrels) had a son known as David Hope or David de Hope.

If your surname is recognisably Welsh, Scottish or Irish (or even French), e.g. Kendrick, Bevan, Price, Fraser, O’Leary, etc. there are other considerations:

Welsh naming (like Scots) was patronal (patronymic), that is based on the fathers name for both sons and daughters e.g. Dafydd ap Gwilym, literally, David, son of Gwilym. Price derives from ‘ap Rhys’ and so on. Daughters incidentally were dubbed as follows: Gwenllian ferch Maredudd that is Gwenllian, daughter of Maredudd. To differentiate, several generations were often employed, e.g. Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri.

There were also ‘cognomen’, which described personal characteristics or trades, Faber for a smith, Gogh or Gough for a man with red hair (from Welsh, but this one at least is found all over England).

The situation is eased of course by the fact that Scots, Irish and French (together with other Europeans) only appeared in relatively small numbers in English armies.

 



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