Goodbye Mr Chips?

I just have to share this article from today’s Daily Telegraph by John Bingham. Names fascinate me, surnames and first names alike; I guess having a fairly unusual maiden and married name makes me more interested

Goodbye Mr Chips as study highlights surnames facing ‘extinction’

The title of the book and film “Goodbye Mr Chips” could prove to be prophetic after genealogists singled it out as a surname on the brink of “extinction”. Hatman, Rummage, and Harred are among other names now used by only a few people in Britain, according to a study by the family history website But even some seemingly high profile names are in danger of “dying out” in the UK, it claims. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s surname is among those which were once among the most common in Britain but now increasingly rare.

As many as 200,000 surnames found in the 1901 census could not be detected in a survey of names a century later. Among those which had apparently disappeared in the intervening century were Jarsdel, Nithercott, Raynott and Woodbead. But a few of those deemed “extinct” by Ancestry can be traced on the electoral roll, including a handful of people called Mr or Mrs Chips.

Migration patterns and anglicisation of once foreign sounding names, including German-sounding names during the Second World War, have contributed to the changes, the report concludes. The First World War may also have played a part – particularly in areas where many young men from the same neighbourhoods went off to war with the “Pals’ Battalions” never to return. At the time, with less internal migration in the country, some surnames were virtually exclusive to certain areas. Others such as Clegg, Cohen, Ashworth, Sutcliffe, Butterworth and Crowther, are still relatively common in Britain but proportionally less so than in 1901. Similarly, the surname William was the 374th most common name at the turn of the last century, but has since fallen to 12,500. In some cases this is because other names have become more common – with Irish and Scottish names becoming more prevalent in England for example as well as a raft of immigrant surnames.

Miriam Silverman, Uk content manager for Ancestry, said: “The Clegg name originates in East Lancashire, an area that saw severe casualties in World War One and where Pals Battalions were common. “It could well be that this affected the prevalence of the Clegg name. “As a very traditional English name, it’s also likely to have been out-competed by incoming names from Ireland and Scotland such as Campbell, Murray and Murphy.”

In the 1934 novel by James Hilton, “Mr Chips” is in fact a nickname for a schoolmaster called Chipping – a surname which also does not feature today.


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