Thanks John: That's heartening information and the results will be
fascinating. By way of etymology, Baring-Gould in his classic (1910) Family
names and their story, classes STEER and variants (he cites STER or STERE of
the STEERES) as Anglo-Saxon "apocopes", which he distinguishes from the
dictionary definition by proposing that in this instance it refers to family
names that indicate either a physical resemblance to the entity (a STEER) by
the bearer, or signify some other relationship- e.g. the man who tended the
oxen (and possibly smelled like them?). His classic isn't one of the
Gospels, and these are insightful claims on his part as he attempted to
construct an early taxonomy. If his proposition is accurate, it might
account for the wide distribution of the name. I suppose the Industrial
Revolution would have played havoc with the distribution in many instances.
In the case of my own family, because Bovey Tracey was a small pottery town,
several of the folk were enticed through the late 17 and early 1800's to
Staffordshire. Throughout history I suspect there has been a flight from
country to town anyway., and the Civil War and Monmouth Rebellion in the
Westcountry might have had a redistributive effect. I'm sure the
distribution maps will raise as many interesting questions as they answer.
Thanks so much for bringing this sort of research to us John. Mike.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Steer" <jdsteer(a)btopenworld.com>
Sent: Friday, February 13, 2004 11:26 AM
Subject: Re: [STEER] STEER/STEAR/STEERS
You voice many questions but they are questions asked by many. Of the
scattered Steers and variant names in England your question is "Do we in
fact connect, simply because we share the same rather unusual surname?"
I don't think that there's a simple answer but with the information I
currently have I would think that there is more than one origin of the
name, but no more than a small handful.
I don't think that it is an English name, but one has to be careful by
is meant by English. It's not an English name by trade, such as
Cooper, nor by place of origin such as Dunholme (Dunham) or
English language is hybrid and I suspect that the Steer name come to
in the formative years of the language from continental Europe, which
be Scandinavia, central Europe or France. It is also possible that
went from those places directly to the newer worlds occupied from
I have a distribution map of the Steer name in England and Wales based on
the 1881 census. A summary would be that the name is widespread, absent
(i.e. very low population) from the Cambridgeshire, Oxford and mid to
west Wales but common in Devon, south east England and West
These three distinct areas are not indicative of a common origin unless
those centres were seeded from elsewhere.
What will be more revealing is a distribution map based on the 1851 census
when I have completed that project. It will also be interesting to
maps showing distribution by occupation in 1851 as well as by
both with a view on migration patterns.
The 1851 census isn't entirely complete or indexed but it is mostly so and
will be a good snapshot of family distribution. Although migrations
and from the country were happening before 1851 much more occurred
afterwards particularly in England as the railways developed. We will see
what the results actually show but I would predict a tightening of the
populations around the three core areas with a strong presence around
but with a generally less wide distribution and more vacant areas.
could be some isolated but strong concentrations in small areas and as
exceptions the investigation of these could be informative generally.
What is equally needed is similar distribution analysis of the name and
suspected original names in continental Europe.
We're not short of things to do! And it's a fascinating quest.
John Steer, Dorking, England
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