Authored by Paul Howes. Paul started his One-Name Study after helping his son complete a school class project to research his family history. Having three separate lines of Howes ancestors all from Norfolk, England, Paul was interested to break through some brick walls and see if the families tied up. That was five years ago, and he has managed to move one line one generation back since then. He lives in hope of achieving more.
My study is into the names Howes, House, Howse and Hows. It’s one of the bigger One-Name Studies and has become possible only since the advent of the internet. About 50,000 people in the world have our name today.
Even with the internet, I realized that we could not study such a frequent name on my own. So we have been online at www.howesfamilies.com from the start, to attract the attention of other researchers and get their help. After five years we have:
- 65,000+ people in our database
- 475,000 facts for those people
- 620 registered users from 20 countries, about half of whom have shared information with us
What have we learned about the origin of our name?
The Howes name is very old, with many occurrences in the 13th century in England, most of those being in the South of the country. There are three primary theories about the source of our name:
A) a derivative of Hugh
B) the word “house”, people who lived or served in one
C) an old Saxon word for hill.
I have less confidence in A and B. If true, either or both would likely have led to a name common across all of England. Mapping the surname distributions in the 19th century shows that, taken together, Howes, Howse and House follow the chalk uplands of Southern England. Hence I lean toward C.
The first people in North America named Howes and House came from England in the 1630s. However, since then a substantial number of immigrants with the name House have arrived from Germany, indicating a second major source: the German name Haus and possibly the Dutch name Huizen.
Are House and Howes really the same name?
I am certain that in England at least they are the same. We have thousands of individuals in our database with their name spelled differently at different times. We have even seen one early US document where the same person’s name is spelled three different ways! We live in a written culture where spelling is important; our ancestors lived in a verbal culture where it was not. Different spellings became dominant in different counties of southern England and largely reflect the way the name is spelled today.
What about Howe?
Generally speaking, if your name has had an S in it, it has always had an S, and if there is no S, you never had one. They appear to be completely separate names with separate distributions, with Howe particularly strong in Scotland. I note too that in Scottish, the word How means a hollow, the exact opposite of the apparent English derivation.
Paul Howes started his One-Name Study after helping his son complete a school class project to research his family history. Having three separate lines of Howes ancestors all from Norfolk, England, Paul was interested to break through some brick walls and see if the families tied up. That was five years ago, and he has managed to move one line one generation back since then. He lives in hope of achieving more.
Emma Pulman is a Social Media and digital Marketing Executive for Ancestry.co.uk. Based in Ancestry's London office in Hammersmith, Emma regularly tweets and posts on Ancestry's Facebook page.