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Staffordshire, Shropshire, LancashireDump

Histories and Origins

There are two established ways into this: through etymology and through an analysis of the historical records to plot the spatial distribution of names over time. The etymology suggests at least three possible and not mutually incompatible sources of the surname. One, is that the name is an anglicanisation of the french word for onion, ‘oignon’, perhaps derived from the occupation of onion seller. Another is that it is english, the name of a parent, ending in -son, after a male personal name. The other likely source is that the name derives from the welsh name ‘Eynon’ or ‘Ennion’ or ‘Onyon’ several other very similar ones. Historical analysis of such as sources as the county militia assessments, muster rolls and hearth tax returns suggests that the name migrated from Wales along with the people who bore it over several centuries. Shropshire and Herefordshire in particular are rich in welsh-origin surnames.

A different historical analysis confirms the general drift from Wales eastwards. Conducted by University College London it maps the distribution of the name (see extermal link below). It maps the distribution of surnames in the 1881 census with the distribution in 1998. It indicates this:
Onions: 1881: most heavily concentrated in Salop, Staffs, and the Black Country.
Onions: 1998: similar but now a notable concentration around Wolverhampton with increases in Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and (the old) Dengeighshire, Montgomeryshire and part of Cardiganshire. Also, penetration into the NW, NE Midlands and NE of England along with East Kent Somerset and east Devon. The spread into England roughly matches the 20th. century distribution of coal mining.
Onion: 1881: most heavily concentrated in Derbyshire and S Nottinghamshire along with Cambridgeshire, S. Staffs, the Black Country and the southern fringes of SW London
Onion: 1998: The heavy concentrations are in Bristol and Avon, East Kent, South Yorkshire and Durham along with slightly less high concentrations in Glasgow and Lanarkshire, Derbyshire, N Black Country (Walsall) and W Kent.

Information submitted by Dump

External Links

Publicprofiler, gbnames then follow the links to specific surname and year.

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