Searching For The Geographical Origin

This blog post is a re-work of an article I originally posted on my Ancestral Wormhole blog. Since I am now a member of the Guild of One Name Studies I decided to re appraise this article and add some new findings.

I originally thought it would be easy to research my TIMMINS surname – but how wrong can you be?  There are a large number of books and on-line articles speculating on the origin of the TIMMINS surname and the location it evolved from.  Not surprisingly they don’t all agree!  There are also the variant or deviant spellings like TIMMONS and TIMMS (and many others).  I have made the decision at this early stage of the study to concentrate solely on the TIMMINS name and put the variants/deviants to one side until I have a better grasp of the project.

First I want to look at some concrete information on where the surname may have come from – the 1881 census of England and Wales  looks like a good place to start – or is it?    Doing an exact name search on Find My Past produced 2,335 matches.  The same search on Ancestry gave 2,391 whilst on FamilySearch I got 2,337 matches.  I chose the 1881 census as I presumed that all the transcriptions would be identical, also the Guild uses the 1881 as a base line to decide the size of the study.  So based on the number of surname matches this study is classed as a Medium by the Guild.

In addition to the above Ancestry was able to give a little more information as it also looks at the Scottish census – this added a further 62 names to the mix (new Ancestry total 2453).  Since I first produced this post Find My Past have also added Scotland, 84 names in fact, which also disagrees with Ancestry!

Just to give a wider perspective to the surname numbers and coverage I checked other census years and other geographies.  The table below shows the results, together with the sources of data.

You would think that computer databases these days could come up with precisely the same answer to a simple query.  Perhaps someone out there in blogger land can explain the differences.

To find the origin of a surname you really have to understand where a person was born rather than where they lived when the census was taken.  Another factor is that you need to look at the older people in the census as this this will give a view of what was happening to the population prior to the mass migration caused by the Industrial Revolution.  This is now starting to look too complicated a search for the likes of the usual suspects i.e. Find My Past, Ancestry and FamilySearch.

So come to the rescue .  This is an on-line paid for service that provides a map and data matching the criteria I mentioned above.  So here we have it, with the added bonus of Scotland.  Note that if you click on an image you will get a higher resolution view. 

An advantage of the web site is that it can also determine if there are any surname matches in Ireland; it uses the Griffith’s Valuation 1847 -1864 to achieve the results.  Unfortunately my TIMMINS surname is not currently in their database.

 I have other options to find out any Ireland/Eire Timmins’:

  • FamilySearch – for Timmins born in Ireland between 1788 and 1860 there are 1031 matches.
  • Ancestry – for Timmins in the Griffiths Valuation gives 218 matches.
  • Ask About Ireland – the raw data for Timmins in Griffiths Valuation gives 263 matches; this search also includes the Landlord which skews the result, also it does not take into account one person renting more than one piece of land.
  • Irish Times – this gives a more precise figure of 121 matches, plus more valuable information on alternate names, also the households in each county and parish.

The Irish Times site is by far the best resource for searching any potential Irish surname connection.  So from the Irish Times:

 The top 4 counties in Ireland for the Timmins surname are:

Carlow 37
Wicklow 21
Kildare 15
Cavan 10

Surname and alternative numbers are:

Timmins 121
Timmons 67
Timmon 11
Timmin 4
Timmonds 1

Other alternative name given are: 

Timins, Timmans, Tymanns,  Ó Tiomáin (Wicklow), Mac Toimín (Mayo).

Leaving Ireland behind for a while I need to look at the more dense population of Timmins in the West Midlands (Staffordshire and Worcestershire) to see if I can narrow down the parishes they frequented.

I just happened to glance up at my CD genealogy collection and spotted a programme that I had forgotten about – Surname Atlas by Archer Software – I purchased it back in 2003, this is exactly what I need.  

“The British 19th Century Surname Atlas is a fully interactive CD-Rom product that allows you to plot floodfill-style distribution maps for all of the surnames and forenames found in the 1881 census of England, Scotland and Wales.”

So I run the software and get 2,414 matches, not quite as many matches as Ancestry?  But here we have the Counties that I am interested in together with the data.

 Next I want to display the results by Parish, it can’t achieve this but it can provide the Poor Law Union breakdown.

“Poor Law Unions were set up in England & Wales following the passing of the Poor Law amendment Act in 1834. The same areas were also used for civil registration and the collection of the 19th century census. They generally contain between 5 and 20 (civil) parishes. The system was less well developed in Scotland and the program only supports mapping by poor law union for England & Wales” 

 The density of Timmins’ in the Dudley Poor Law Union would appear to indicate that the surname could have established itself here at an early stage.  More investigation into this will follow in my next blog post.

Just as I thought that I had finished another thought popped into my head “Google British Surnames”.  Yet more information……………… rather than copy and paste it here I will let you click on the links and explore my surname further at these web sites.  In fact why not explore your own!

gbnames – the Great Britain Family Names Profiling website which presents the findings of a project based at University College London (UCL) that is investigating the distribution of surnames in Great Britain, both current and historic.

britishsurnames –  The British Surnames website. Here, you can find information on similar surnames, most common surnames, surname meanings and etymologies as well as discussing your name in the forum.  As the name suggests, this site primarily lists surnames commonly found in Britain, but many of these are found in other parts of the world as well – so even if you’re not British, your name could well be in here! 

americansurnames – See how the name has spread.

canadasurnames – There is a town named Timmins in Ontario Canada – the following is courtesy of wikitravel, also see wikipedia

Timmins is a city in Northern Ontario with a population of nearly 43,000 (2006 census). The City stretches over approximately 2,961.52 km2 (1,840.20 sq mi) of land, making Timmins one of the largest cities in Canada land wise. Timmins was founded January 1, 1912 and is named after Noah Timmins, founder of the Hollinger Gold Mine. The gold rush of 1909 earned Timmins the nickname of the “City with the Heart of Gold”. The city is located in one of the richest mineral producing areas in the Western Hemisphere. It is a leader in the production of gold and base metals. Main attractions are mining tours, outdoor recreation and the Shania Twain Centre.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope you found it interesting.  Please leave comments below, or you can email me direct.


FamilySearch for TIMMINS in 1881 using Outwit Hub

In my last post on the TIMMINS surname I was left with an action to check if I could glean more information on birth locations from the FamilySearch web site, namely the 1881 census of England and Wales.  There are two possibilities for FamilySearch, either I use the old site which displays 200 entries at a time and gives a total hit of 2331 entries of the surname, or I use the new site which gives 2337 hits but only displays 20 entries at a time!I decided to use the old site as it prevented RSI by requiring fewer mouse actions.  The following two images show the data as presented firstly by FamilySearch into the Outwit Hub add-on for Firefox (this is prior to using the extraction options);  and, secondly the extracted data, exported in Excel format, then manipulated in an Excel spreadsheet.
The search was TIMMINS with exact match ticked.
Final Excel spreadsheet after a lot of data manipulation
For a better view, if you click on the images they should open in a larger window

One thing you will immediately notice is that Outwit Hub has extracted data that is not visible on screen! Cool!  Before I move on to analyse the results let’s just see how I extracted the data. The following screen image is OH (Outwit Hub) before the export.

In OH I have moved to Tables under the Data option in the left hand panel.  I have filtered by Select Row if Col3 Contains timmins.  I have unticked the Clean Text option as we want all the data.  On Page Load I have selected Catch Selection and unticked Empty.  Columns 2 and 3 contain all the data that is in the final Excel spreadsheet.  Next move back to the web page by selecting Page in the left hand panel.  Go to the bottom of each page and select Next until you reach the bottom of the data, 2331 in this case.  OH will catch all the data.  Go back to the Tables page and select Export Excel in the On Page Load panel at the far right.  You can load the exported file into Excel and manipulate it as you see fit.

I won’t go into the ways to manipulate the data as it could easily fill another lengthy blog post, and there are hundreds of different ways to do it!.  Ideally though you want to get the data in each cell into comma separated format, once you have this copy all the data into Notepad and save as a text file, then open the text file in Excel with the delimited option selected.   If you are an Excel guru then there are much more sophisticated ways to extract what you want using Functions and Visual Basic.

Before you start catching data it is a good idea to play around with Outwit Hub to see if more data is available by selecting the other options in the left hand panel.  Look at the source option and check through the page using find input field, just type in what you are looking for e.g. Timmins – this shows no results.  I tried this on a FMP page and there was additional information that did not show on screen.

Outwit Hub – If it want to try this program there is a free light version.

OutWit Hub breaks down Web pages into their different constituents. Navigating from page to page automatically, it extracts information elements and organizes them into usable collections.

 OutWit Hub Light is free and fully operational, but doesn’t include the automation features and limits the extraction to one or few hundred rows, depending on the extractor.

There are lots of on-line tutorials by the makers and users, to get the most out of the program I would recommend you give them a go.

Now back to my TIMMINS surname investigations.

Having all the data in an Excel spreadsheet has enabled statistics heaven!!  But it has also highlighted lots of errors in my original investigation using Find My Past, which goes to show that you can’t beat working with the original secondary source material, but even the LDS transcript has its anomolies.  For instance West Bromwich has been spelt 10 different ways?  The transcribers have been true to the original text but this does not help when you want to filter in or out certain data.

I noted that non of the commercial sites I tried appeared to have suitable filtering available to enable the results I wanted!

The statistics overall, albight more accurate that my first pass on FMP, still tell the same story.

Dudley Parish still appears to be the most likely place of the surname origin

Here is my data relating to the parishes within the Poor Law Union boundaries.  It is interesting to note that there were 83 entries without a precise birth place location; 74 of these at least gave a county or country; only 9 entries had no location whatsoever.

Birth Place            No   %
Dudley 269 11.97
Sedgley 157 6.98
West Bromwich 138 6.14
Tipton 113 5.03
Stourbridge 71 3.16
W Bromwich 59 2.62
Wednesbury 47 2.09
Oldbury 40 1.78
Halesowen 30 1.33
Kingswinford 29 1.29
Rowley Regis 26 1.16
Brierley Hill 17 0.76
Westbromwich 10 0.44
West Bromch 7 0.31
Brierly Hill 6 0.27
W.B. 6 0.27
Cradley 4 0.18
Oldswinford 3 0.13
W Brom 3 0.13
West Bromh 3 0.13
Lye 2 0.09
Amblecote 1 0.04
Dudley Port 1 0.04
Dudly Port 1 0.04
Quarry Bank 1 0.04
West Brom… 1 0.04
West Broml… 1 0.04
Westbromwichh 1 0.04
sub-total 1047 46.57
Total Birth Places Identified 2248
Total Surnames 2331
Blank Birth Place 83
(Blanks is where no precise birth place is given)
Blank Birth Place  No  %
Cheshire 4 0.18
Cornwall 2 0.09
Cumberland 2 0.09
Shropshire 4 0.18
Other England 3 0.13
Ireland 48 2.14
Scotland 7 0.31
United States 3 0.13
Malta 1 0.04
No birth location entered 9 0.40
Total 83 3.69
Poor Law Unions  No  %
Stourbridge 164 7.30
Dudley 567 25.22
West Bromwich 316 14.06
Conclusions & Observations so far:

– It is a shame that you can no longer download GEDCOM data from the old FamilySearch site.
– Why does the new FamilySearch not have a download facility?
– New FamilySearch needs to have 25, 50, 100, 200 items per page options (a bit like eBay).
– We need to keep the old FamilySearch 1881 Census live as it has many advantages; could they provide a new front end that enables more complex searches.
– Commercial genealogy web sites need a form of “fuzzy search” capability on some of the fields.
– Does anyone know if it is possible to buy the raw 1881 data set from LDS; one that will load into Excel or Access?
– Outwit Hub is great tool for data extraction on the web.
– TIMMINS surname origins to continue in the Dudley Parish.

Finally – If anyone wants a copy of my Excel spreadsheets, either the original data or the final cleaned and edited version, give my your email address and I will gladly send you a copy.