The distribution of a surname can tell you a lot about its origins. The Guild of One-Name Studies has a project to analyse the distribution and frequency of surnames registered with the Guild using the figures from in the 1881 census index. A total count of all variants of the name ROWBERRY (plus the anomalies already discovered) gives a figure of 889. There are a few families which I have yet to discover, and some which have been removed as not being incidences of the name, so the final total could be slightly different. However the figures that I have are reasonably accurate.

These show clearly that the highest concentration of the name occurs in Herefordshire, where the frequency is 0.11%, that is eleven people in every ten thousand recorded in the 1881 census index for the county of Herefordshire are called ROWBERRY (or a variant). The next highest concentration occurs in Worcestershire, where 4.4 persons out of ten thousand carry the name, followed by Staffordshire (1.5 persons per 10,000), Cornwall (1.1 persons) and Warwickshire (1 person). The distribution map was prepared by Geoff Riggs who has spent a great deal of time setting up this project and analysing the figures sent to him by members of the Guild. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of both Geoff and the Guild. Eventually I hope to use the same program to produce distribution maps for the individual variants, and for other types of documents (eg phone directories).

The highest absolute numbers do not actually occur in Herefordshire, but in Worcestershire and Staffordshire. However there are much larger total populations in these two counties, so reducing the actual concentration of the name there. This is strikingly illustrated by the fact that Herefordshire has a comparative density value of 35.8. This means that there were almost 36 times as many people living there named ROWBERRY (or a variant) than there would have been if the surname had been evenly distributed throughout the total population of Great Britain. A comparative density of less than 1.0 means there are less occurances of the name than would be expected given an even distribution.

Together the figures and map illustrate how the name originated in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire area and had spread out into the surrounding counties, and by the time of the 1881 census was beginning to spread further afield. Most of the counties with density values on this map of less than one contain only recent emigrants, that is the heads of household were not born in those counties. Most of them were born in Herefordshire, Worcestershire or Staffordshire and had moved in search of work. Some went to the newly opened-up coalfields of Yorkshire and South Wales, others to the Steel works of Cumberland. In some cases they may even have been mis-transcribed and not be ROWBERRYs at all.

For those of you interested in the figures and calculations they will be found on the following page:

URL= http://www.rowberry.org/distribn.html
Last revised: 9th November 2000
© Polly Rubery 1999-2000