For years I have been conducting an informal (and/or obsessive) one-name study. There are only 150 or so people who bear our surname globally, all but a handful of those in England.

I have many times considered registering the surname with the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS), but never really seen what benefits would be reason to part with £15 per year. All people bearing the surname descend from a single ancestor, and I have been able to connect almost all of them to our family tree. So I don't see a GOONS membership helping me to grow my knowledge of the family tree.

How would registering with GOONS help me progress with my one-name study? I am particularly keen to hear what benefits current or past members have experienced.

  • 1
    As a non-GOONS member I can say that some of their members have been extremely helpful to me when researching, for example, my Angove and Boyens ancestors in Cornwall. I think GOONS would benefit greatly from your surname being added to their list. Perhaps you could ask them to waive the annual fee on the basis that you think you may be helping their membership and target members more than membership would be helping you.
    – PolyGeo
    Jun 24, 2016 at 22:53
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    There is also an alternative to GOONS and that is The Surname Society surname-society.org. Their membership fee is only £5 per annum.
    – Colin
    Jun 25, 2016 at 8:04

2 Answers 2


I have been a member of the Guild for ten years and have benefited hugely from my membership. These are what I see as some of the main benefits.

  1. You get a free profile page on the Guild website where you can advertise your one-name study. You can see my profile page here.Having a profile page brings in enquiries, and also gives your study more credibility.

  2. There is a huge amount of worldwide knowledge and expertise within the Guild so there is always someone to ask if you have a question about sources in a particular country or best practice. I've also found it helpful to be part of a community of like-minded people. We have an annual conference in the UK, as well as a regular seminar programme. There are always interesting and enjoyable discussions in our Facebook group and on our Rootsweb mailing list.

  3. I have benefited enormously from the Guild marriage challenges. This is a project whereby Guild members look up marriages in specific registration districts for England and Wales. Essentially you get a free marriage record which avoids having to pay £9.25 for a certificate. If you get two free "faux certificates" a year then you have already paid for your membership. There are also a number of other look-up projects offered by Guild members (a Newswatch project, hearth tax look-ups, etc. There is a full list of membership benefits here.

  4. The Guild is committed to preserving one-name studies. You can choose to have your profile page archived. You can also lodge digital material with the Guild. We now have a Members' Websites Project whereby members can archive their website with the Guild.

  5. If you are running a DNA project you can buy discounted Family Tree DNA kits from the Guild. You can find the details here.


I am sure there are lots of benefits to being a member of any society and there are sometimes various options. For example, Somerset & Dorset FHS exists, as do the separate county FHS groups.

As Colin mentioned, there are two societies who serve the surname study communities. Some people choose to do their studies in isolation and want to be the sole registrant of the surname (and worldwide oracle on the name) with the Guild of One-Name Studies. Others prefer a more collaborate approach which, I believe, is offered by The Surname Society.

The benefits are listed on the two society webpages which can be found at www.one-name.org and www.surname-society.org. I guess the greatest difference is in the outlay each year which for the Guild is £15 plus the initial £12 for registration of your surname (and variants), whereas The Surname Society is just £5 per annum with no cost to register any number of surnames, promote those surname studies and gain contacts with name bearers across the world.

  • 1
    Registering a surname with the Guild does not mean that the study is conducted in splendid isolation. The Guild encourages collaborative working. Many one-name/surname studies are the fruit of such collaborations.
    – Debbie
    Jul 16, 2016 at 21:03

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