A complete guide to the Guild of One-Name Studies

Have you considered joining the Guild of One-Name Studies? There are so many Family History Societies, Local History groups and genealogical associations to join. Deciding which one(s) to go for can be struggle, especially, if (like me), you suffer from indecisiveness.

Me looking indecisive. Review of Guild of One Name Studies.
Me looking indecisive!

This Christmas I took the plunge and joined the Guild of One-Name Studies. I’d already started my own One-Name Study (ONS) and it made sense to join a group that specialised in this type of research. My plan was to get to know the Guild before registering my surname as a study. I was (am) hopeful that anyone else searching for genealogical information on the Pither(s) surname would search the Guild for that name and come across my contact details.

Guild of One Name Studies logo

I’d had some first hand experience of how this might work – many years ago I’d searched the Guild for some of the surnames in my family tree. I’d found the Lovegrove ONS and contacted the study. They’d helped me on my genealogical journey and I’ve never forgotten their friendliness or enthusiasm.

Guild of One Name Studies surname search
Search for your surname on the Guild’s website

So why did I delay joining? I already knew members were helpful, why didn’t I just pay up? It’s not a large amount of money – between £20 to £30 depending on when you join and which initial sign-up duration you select. However, I held back because although I knew I wanted to conduct a Pither(s) study – I hadn’t started. It wasn’t until my study was under-way that I seriously considered joining. I didn’t really see the benefit of joining the Guild without being a one-namer.

Oh how wrong I was!

I wish I had joined when I first started debating which societies to hand over my hard earned dosh to! I would urge any genealogist to join. You really really don’t need to be conducting a one-name study.

The Guild’s Website and Wiki

To put it simply, the website is professional. It’s clean, clear, easily to navigate and I have yet to find a link that doesn’t work. The site has stayed clear of gimmicks, such as flashing text, reels of scrolling images and other distracting side shows. This makes it practical and easy to read. My only criticism would be that there is so much information that it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. That said, there is plenty of help on hand and fellow members are keen to help newbies. There is even a mentoring service that you can utilise!

The Guild of One Name Studies is collaborative and encourages members to interact
The Guild has a collaborative approach, encouraging members to help each other

Within the website itself there are many useful guides on one-name studies, many of which would be of interest to any genealogist. For me, the greatest benefit by far is the Guild’s fantastic (and ever growing) Wiki. Covering subjects from software to illegitimacy, the Guild’s Wiki is an invaluable tool, and not just to one-namers. For example, sections on sources, such as “online parish register sources…” are useful to many family historians. There’s similar pages that’d prove extremely useful for any genealogy newbies – but “experts” are catered for too – with pages on less well known sources and sections covering countries across the globe.

The Wiki is open to members to update or add to which means its a always growing and improving. This helps foster the feeling that members belong to a society and encourages membership collaboration. Genealogy can be a lonely pursuit, but the Guild offers lots of opportunity to meet other members and work together.

Don't get lost down a rabbit hole

It’s easy to spend several evenings falling down a WIKI rabbit-hole! It’s a pleasurable experience and one I’d recommend. You’ll come away with a head full of new information and at least half a dozen bookmarks of further ‘stuff’ you want to explore!

“Down the Rabbit Hole” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by valkyrieh116


Inter-group communication is encouraged, although no one is forced into the limelight. There are plenty of different options for engaging with other members, but if you’re a lurker, don’t panic you won’t be shoved out of the shadows!

Every one-namer gets given a ONS email address, regardless of whether you have a one-name study. Email sent to your ONS address is directed to an email account of your choice. Not only does this make it easy to remember (or work out) someone’s address, but it also affords a bit of privacy. You don’t have to share personal information in order to be contactable. For example, you could include this email address on a comment on a public genealogy forum, include it on a message to a DNA match or even add it to a postem on a BMD entry at FreeBMD.

Pithers page on Guild of One Name Studies
Clicking on my name on my profile page will send an email to pithers@one-name.org, but my personal email address is kept private

There is an abundance of different ways to engage with other members, including a Facebook Group, a web forum and a mailing list. I’ve seen a huge variety of topics discussed, from techie Gedcom chats, to requests for tips on writing a biography. There’s even a forum post requesting ideas from members to better engage with new starters.

Do you want to find members that live near you? Perhaps you’d like to reach out to meet some new friends with a shared interest? Take a look at the Guild’s Regional News list, find not only your regional rep but a list of others in your area. Of course, you could also decide to attend a Guild seminar or conference.

Surname Indexes and Sharing Information

It’s perhaps not surprising that an organisation that promotes communication between members also encourages the sharing of data. There might not be anyone conducting a study on your surname(s) of interest, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be no information on that surname.

Simply enter your surname of interest into the Guild’s surname search box (at the top of every page). Let’s take my surname of interest – Pither(s). See below image, none of this Pither(s) data has been added by me.

Search results for Pither on Guild of One Name Studies

There are 41 mentions of the Pither surname on the Guild’s members-only Probate Index. This is an index compiled by members who have kindly submitted a list of the wills that they have obtained, and details of the names mentioned within that Will. In the Pither example, I can see that in a will proved in 1689 belonging to Joseph Luff of Chertsey, a Robert Pither (tenant) was mentioned. I can click on the ID of the member who submitted the entry and ask whether they have a copy of the Will or know any further information.

There are similar indexes relating to Births, Marriages and Deaths. In addition, Guild members have (and continue to) run Marriage Challenges. A member will advertise that they are challenging themselves to review the marriage parish registers for a certain registration district within set dates. The challenger asks other members to submit lists of the marriages that they are interested in viewing, and then he/she sets about visiting the relevant archives, finding the marriages of interest, recording and sharing the findings.

The Journal

The Guild publishes a quarterly journal, the Journal of One-Name Studies, fondly called JOONS for short. The literature is of a high quality and the range of subjects is broad. Paper copies are posted to members but the Journal can also be viewed online. The back catalogue is available to members and you can search the journals by keyword to view individual articles. So far I’ve been impressed with JOONS, not least because it is actually full of articles rather than advertising! The topics I’ve seen probably appeal more to One-Namers but there’s still plenty to read for someone who has not yet started a study.

Journal of the Guild of One Name Studies (JOONS)
Members can download previous issues and find items of interest by searching for keywords

There’s more….

There are many other benefits offered by the Guild, not least the ability for those that do decide to register a study, to preserve their members website. The Guild’s seminars are excellent and cover a wide range of genealogical and historical topics. There are further perks aimed specifically at One-Namers, such as obtaining your own one-name study website, step by step guides to conducting a study etc etc etc.

I hope this article has given you a small insight into the BIG benefits of membership to all genealogists. Genealogy Stories has no affiliation with the Guild, except for being a member.

Guild members were asked: what word sums up the Guild – for me it was Innovative. Other words stated by fellow members included Friendly, Collaborative, Cooperative, Inventive, Helpful, Supportive and Addictive.


You might find the below links to the Guild and other Family History groups of interest:

Benefits of joining the Guild

Family History Federation

The Surname Society

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