were not in everyday use at the time of the Conquest, although some surnames
were used in the Domesday Book. More
often an individual was identified by the first name and by being of or from a
certain place. Therefore the chance
of identifying an ancestor from that era is nearly impossible since several
families, although probably intertwined by marriage as might happen in a
village, would use the same place name. The
challenge is even more difficult because members of the same family were
sometimes known by the name of their trade or by some other designation.
To confuse the researcher delving into those early records where surnames
were not hereditary, there are a number of cases where sons from the
same privileged family used different surnames, using the names of the
estates inherited. Another
designation came by appending son to the father's first name in the case of a
son who did not inherit land.
appears that by the middle of the twelfth century there were social forces
operating in favor of the view that persons of some rank should bear a
designation other than their baptismal names.
After 1160 when Henry II enfranchised the land, the use of hereditary
surnames increased. Nevertheless
the unsettled use of consistent surnames makes it a very difficult matter to
trace antecedents of any family further back than the thirteenth century,
particularly for the lower and middle classes.
conclusion, the use of a common surname in the early years is no proof in itself
of consanguinity. Vice versa, the
use of different surnames does not prove a lack of kinship.
Statute of Additions passed during the reign of Henry V in the first quarter of
the fifteenth century gave the initial full legal recognition to English
surnames. In 1464 during the reign of Edward !V, the insufficiency of a given
name to distinguish an individual led to the first statute which required the
adoption of surnames.
by chancellor Cromwell for Henry VIII at the time of the English reformation in
the 1530s which required the church to keep parish registers for births,
marriages, and deaths contributed to the use of lifetime surnames as well as to
the establishment of reliable written records for the researcher.
Although those records are quite valuable today, the people of that day
resented the intrusion, believing the crown had ulterior motives.
all of the difficulties with records and names, only forty to eighty families
have been able to lay valid claim of knowing their line to the Conquest without
introducing some conjecture along the way.
Usage of Prepositions with Surnames:
about the mid-13th century, the use of the Anglo-Saxon preposition atte in
conjunction with the surname increased. The
term usually implied residence more than possession.
The use of the French or Latin de was used more often to indicate
possession rather than residence. This
probably was attributable to the fact that those of French descent or who were
politically allied with the Normans were the landholders, while the Anglo-Saxons
had been largely displaced in that role.
The Sydnor Name
spelled in the Domesday Book as
S was at rare times written as a C.
Sometimes, the initial vowel was reduced from sound to writing as
e. The d was from time
to time shown as t. Occasionally,
the n was either given or copied as m.
Sometimes the final vowel was given as e or ou.
the seventeenth century, Sidnor evolved to Sydnor.
Sydnor, the American emigrant in 1665 or 1666, originally used Sidnor for the
first few years in Virginia. Thereafter
changing the I to a y
name Sydnor has never been confused with Sydney or Sidney, a name that was
derived from St Deny, the patron saint of France.
The Derivation of the
phonetic equivalents of Sydnor are found in two European countries other than
England. These are discussed below.
The name Sydnor and its phonetic spellings probably derive from two
fundamental roots of the Indo-European language.
sed: put down. This
root has developed in three ways: (1) to put down the buttocks--stop, sit,
dwell; (2) to put down the foot--walk, go; and (3) to put down the fists or
ner: below; to the left;
towards the left facing the sunrise, hence north.
These original Indo-European words were used to
define material objects or specific events that impinged directly upon the
senses or immediate emotions. Both
root words, sed and ner, have been used separately and frequently as parts of placenames
in all of the regions of the world which use the descended languages from the
Indo-European. How the specific
combination as used in England evolved is not known.
Whether the English place name was imported from France, Germany, Poland,
or some other part is uncertain.
Many of the early variants of Sydnor derive from
phonetic spellings. (It is said
that Shakespeare, a man with some skill with words, signed his own name five
different ways.) Since reading and
writing were not useful skills for most of the population, few learned the
skills. Except where one was a
member of the clergy or practicing law for example, first names, and surnames as
first used in the 13th and 14th centuries, were left to whatever phonetic
spelling skills were known to a clerk after hearing a person pronounce it.
Thus, for example in English, there are the frequent substitutions of i
for y and y for i; d for t
and t for d; o, ou,
The scribe had to deal with a wide range of
dialects. Missing teeth and wills
taken from a deathbed added to variety. Another
source of disorder, aside from the errors of tedium, came from the several times
a document was copied by hand before being set in the form we might find it
today. For those who have read the
medieval and early English scripts, the miracle is the accuracy that does exist.
In searching records, one must check indices for a
number of variants due to the use of phonetic spelling, the lack of standard
spelling, and scribal misciphers. Sydnor, Sednor, Sedenore, Setnor, Setenore,
Sidnor, Sydgore, Sygnor, and Syndre
are all possibly variants from the same root.
Even Senor occurs as a scribal error.
There are good reasons for ignoring Syder, Sigor,
Siggor, Sidney, Sydney, Seten, Setene, Sidham, and many others which have a
different genesis and thereby lines of descent.
For instance, Sydney is English for St Denis who is the patron saint of
France. Snider or Snyder, the
plague of modern Sydnors, is not a problem because it is not found.
None of the surname Sydnor is known among those
living in England today.
Perhaps the reader can appreciate the time required to check each
index, then extrapolate that to the thousands that were searched.
The Origins of English Words, A
Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots;,
Joseph T. Shipley (1984); also The
Place Names of Sussex;, ed. A. Mawer & F. M. Stenton (1929), English
Place Name Society;, v.6, p.339 and v.15, p.xxxxi.