Viking Blood in Wirral and Lancashire Men

Viking helmetThe results of the study led by Professor Mark Jobling of Leicester University, Professor Stephen Harding and Professor Judith Jesch of Nottingham University, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution in February 2008, show that up to 50% of the blood of men in Wirral in Merseyside and West Lancashire is specifically linked to Scandinavian ancestry. This is about the same as modern Orkney, well known for its Viking links. From generation to generation, DNA of the male Y-chromosome is passed along the paternal ancestry; the team of researchers took advantage of the fact that surnames are also passed along the same lines. The method proved to be especially powerful being applied not to individuals but whole populations.

Thus the group of volunteers had to be selected according to certain areas and specific surnames present in these areas at least prior to 1600. After their expulsion from Dublin in 902 AD, Vikings led by a chieftain named Ingimund landed along the north Wirral coastline between the lighthouse at Lingham (Old Norse lyng holmr), Meols (melr), West Kirby (kirkjubyr) and Thurstaston (Þórsteinns tún). They spread as far as south Chester and Mersey to populate South West Lancashire, where they met another large group of Vikings.

Place names pointing to an area of intense Viking settlement played a major role in the study: for instance, Thingwall is a name of a Viking assembly, and the only two places with such name are in the North West, one in Liverpool and one in Wirral. Other Viking place names include Irby, Skelmersdale, Aighburth, Formby, Crosby, Toxteth and Croxteth. Even Tranmere (and, accordingly, Tranmere Rovers F. C.) is a Viking name: in Old Norse Trani-melr means Heron Sandbank.

Then one had to select 100 volunteers who possessed a surname pointing to Viking links and whose male ancestors lived in the same area for as long as one could trace. To this end, the team of researchers used historical records that included tax lists dating to the time of Henry XIII, as well as a list of inhabitants who had promised to help pay for a priest in Ormskirk in 1366. The surnames included: Taylor, Forshaw, Rigby, Rimmer, Robinson, Oxton, Scarisbrick and Melling.

The gurus on Viking DNA from Leicester University have secured the funding to continue their study and see how far Norse Viking blood runs into Cumbria. More details on Wirral and West Lancashire 1100th Viking Anniversary Home Page by Professor Stephen Harding.

Photo courtesy Steve & Jemma Copley. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence.

44 comments… add one
  • Dave Fairhurst

    Some years ago (maybe 15 or more) I gave a blood sample to a doctor at Wrightington Hospital near Wigan who was researching the genetics of Dupuytrens Contracture, a problem with ligaments in the hand that my father had suffered from, which was believed to have come to Britain with the Vikings. I wonder if your study had picked up on any of those research results? I believe my own name, common enough in the North West and deriving from a place near Wrightington, is of Vikings origin.

  • Anthony

    I’m have Ben told the name Swarbrick is scandinavian name. is there any truth to it?

  • Anne Green

    I believe my maiden name Melling is of Viking origin. My family have strong Lancashire connections.

    • Viking Rune

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing this.

  • Craig Rigby

    Trying to dig info on my surname. Interested in the study where Rigby pops up!

    • Viking Rune

      Rigby seems to be a surname which was originally derived from a place name meaning ‘ridge farm’ in Old Norse.

  • Wesley Crosby

    With my last name being Crosby, it may be of some interest for me to do some heavy research into my ancestry. I was unaware of the possibility that my family’s name may be linked to the Vikings. Thank you for the information!

  • Stewart Taylor

    Hi I’m a Taylor, I know there’s so many of us so don’t hate me. However I read that Taylor families in UK originally migrated from Normandy and first settled in Kent, then other parts of England. How does this explain the high concentration of Taylors in Orkney? Being host to many Viking raids and settlers perhaps Orkney was part of another migration route for this name into UK?

  • Frederick Hellon

    I have been having trouble identifying the origins of my surname, HELLON. According to various old census records the names seems to have been recorded most in Cumbria/North Lancashire (there are still a number in Cumbria), there are a lot of us in Wirral but they are mainly extended family! Any ideas?
    Best regards,

  • Jarrett Branson

    Can you tell me what my heritage is? We came from northern England where the Vikings settle which is also Anglo Saxon, but I was told by relatives at a young age we were Vikings and should be Proud of our Heritage. Any help will be appreciated Thank you, Jarrett Branson.

    • Dennis crehan

      Branson (bransson) son of bran of the fomors ( Vikings ) and also grandson of Febol king of Ireland . A great family name indeed.

  • Donald Evans

    I sent in a sample of my DNA for testing through National Geographic in 2014. My last name is a very common WELSH name. As far as I know, all male relatives on my fathers side were of Welsh decent. My Mother, of French decent. My DNA results were as follows: 73% SCANDANAVIAN! 15% British Isles, 7% Central European, and 5% undetermined. Further DNA testing would be required to determine the specific region of Scandinavian ancestry. More $$$$! Would love to know but will have to wait for now. Kudos to your excellent web site.

  • Peter iveson

    I was wondering where the name Iveson originates from .
    I live on the wirral and had been told it has
    Viking origin . Any ideas

    • Hel

      This unusual and interesting surname derives from the Norman personal name “Ivo”, a short form of any of the various Germanic compound names with a first element “iv”, from the Old Norse “yr”, plural “ifar” meaning yew, bow, a weapon generally made from the supple wood of the yew tree.

      The name was introduced into England at the time of the Conquest, and enjoyed great popularity, reinforced by such bearers of the name as St. Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, and a 13th Century Breton, St. Ivo, who became the patron saint of lawyers.

      St. Ives in Cambridgeshire takes its name from the church dedicated to a legendary Persian bishop, said to have lived there as a hermit. St. Ives, in Cornwall, however, is named from a 5th Century female Irish saint.

      “Ives” is the patronymic form of the name Ive, the “s” meaning son of. The surname dates back to the late 12th Century, and early recordings include John Ives (1327) in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex. London Church Records list the christening of Joyce, daughter of Richarde Ives, on January 24th 1588 at St. Giles, Cripplegate.

      A Coat of Arms granted to an Ives family is silver, a black chevron between three blackamoors’ heads couped proper. The Crest is a boar passant proper, gold collared and chained. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Yuo, which was dated 1175, in the “Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire”, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as “The Builder of Churches”, 1154 – 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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