The Isle of Man: Historically a more closely-knit community than we think!

The Isle of Man is only small in physical size (221 square miles) and its population relative to its neighbours has always been small also. Until the 19th century the majority of the population worked on the land or sea and lived in, or close to, the countryside.

Any movement of the population was largely limited to farmers seeking new farmland to rent or people marrying someone from another parish. In this rural community it was common for marriages to take place between neighbouring families and, over the centuries, many of them ended up related to each other in some way or another, within a parish or surrounds. The result of this is that the community of the Isle of Man has always been closely-knit and everyone tended to know or know of their near family relatives. Anyone researching their own Manx family history today will find that fact out quickly and see the same range of other Manx surnames marrying into their own ancestral family.

Those people living on the Isle of Man, whose families have lived there since the last 500-1000 years or so, are identified by their range of unique family names. In early times individuals were originally only known by their single or personal names. Such personal names were often nicknames or descriptive (e.g. Duggan = “little dark man”) but around 1000 years ago the Celtic patronymic system of names started to be adopted.

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