The project hopes to have entries on 40,000 names available online by April 2014. In addition, they have a further 150,000 names on the reserve list. A questionnaire in electronic form will be prepared for members of the Guild of One-Name Studies who will be invited to answer questions about their registered surname(s). The questionnaire will be carefully structured so that the researchers get the answers they are seeking rather than the information that Guild members might like to provide!
The project will record the names and dates of the earliest known name-bearers for each surname and an attempt will be made to link these references to modern forms. The frequency and distribution of each surname in the present day and in 1881 will also be recorded. Steve Archer's British 19th-Century Surnames Atlas is being used to map the distribution of surnames in 1881. One of the key resources to be used for early surname references is Carolyn Fenwick's 14th-century Poll Tax Returns (The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381, three volumes, Oxford University Press, 1988). This seminal work serves as a proxy census of 14th-century Britain. Fenwick published an index of place names and a glossary of occupations, but ran out of steam and no surname index was ever published, making it a time-consuming exercise to extract data on a single surname and its variants. The UWE team have applied to the British Academy for funding for a project to create a personal names index to the Poll Taxes which, if approved, will be a valuable resource for surname researchers. Carolyn Fenwick is now retired and living in Australia but she has kindly donated her database to the researchers at the UWE.
For later surname references the project will rely on a mixture of primary data sources and the IGI. The project is currently working with Family Search to standardise the place names used in the IGI. Members of the Guild have also been invited to get involved in this project and are now in the process of checking place names in each county and "quarantining" place names which cannot be found in other sources.
The Family Names Project currently has no plans to incorporate genetic data from DNA projects. However, Dr Hanks attended Chris Pomery's talk at the conference on "The Value of DNA Projects to One-Name Studies" and he was particularly interested in the way that DNA projects have uncovered genetic matches with different surname variants such as the link between the names Crews and Screws which has been found in my own project. He was also intrigued to learn that Guild member Alan Moorhouse had a DNA match with someone with the surname Morris. Dr Hanks has asked us for suggestions as to how genetic data could be incorporated in the project, and is arranging to discuss the matter further at a meeting in Bristol with Chris Pomery which I'm also hoping to attend.