As I was working on my Oxborough family tree, I came across a new surname. My ancestor, Charles Frederick Oxborough, had married a woman named Grace Ethel Charlish. They married in 1931 in Beccles, Suffolk, England.

When I discover a new surname, like Charlish, I want to find its origins. For my English ancestors, I use SurnameDB. Yet, this database did not have a listing for Charlish.

I performed a general search on the internet. Forebear’s website showed that, in 2014, it was “most prevalent” in England. It was also “most common” in Norfolk County, England.

I went back to Ancestry.com. I selected the database with the oldest dates in Norfolk County, England. It was in Norfolk, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1535-1812.

My first search of this database was simple. I typed in the surname, Charlish. It brought up every parish record that contained this name. Most of the entries were in Earsham, Norfolk, England. The parish registers for Earsham date from the year 1559 until 1812.

I then typed in the surname Charlish and the parish of Earsham, Norfolk, England. The earliest baptism record that I found in this database was for Hannah Charlish born in 1776. The last baptism record was for Robert Charlish born in 1812.

 

 

From these snippets, you can see that there were two primary families living in Earsham. They were:

William and Mary Charlish
Joseph and Ann Charlish

Ancestry.com employs volunteers to transcribe records into its databases. It could be that many entries were not published because the volunteers could not read them.

The earliest entries were in Latin.

Erosion has made some pages unreadable.

There may be other Charlish ancestors in these pages that are not transcribed. If you are researching the Charlish family name, you will have to look at each page in these registers. This is time-consuming but worth it in the long run.

Variations of the surname are common. In the above baptism database, this name appeared as Sharlish and Churlish, too.

This surname evolved from another, older, name. This can happen because of a myriad of reasons. Stephen Thomas explains it this way:

“It is something like Chinese whispers (America’s Telephone). The game where a phrase is corrupted into a completely different sentence as it is passed on from one person to another.”

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, Page 475:

I returned to the SurnmaneDB and typed in the surname, Charles. Here I discovered that this name originated from the personal name, Carolus:

“The personal name . . . Carolus was first recorded in the charter known as the Curia Rolls of the county of Suffolk in the year 1208.”

I have no doubt that Charlish evolved from the personal name of Carolus. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary excerpt lists one of the earliest forebearers as:

Johannes Charlis 1379 in Poll Tax (Sharrington, Norfolk)

Regional accents may have played a part in converting this surname to Charlish. The fact that many people were illiterate may have been another cause for this change. A person spoke the name. Another wrote it down as they heard it. Charlis became Charlish.

Another way to research a family name is to connect with other people doing the same. On Ancestry.com, I can view other members’ family trees. I can send them an email if I have a question or comment.

On WikiTree.com, I type in the surname and a list of profiles appears. I can then contact the managers of these profiles for more information.

Find-A-Grave is another valuable website. I use this site to verify burials. In this case, I wanted to see if any Charlish descendants still lived in that parish. I first looked for cemeteries in Earsham, Norfolk, England. There is one called All Saints Churchyard. I clicked on the “memorials” link. Here, I discovered five people with the surname Charlish buried in this cemetery.

And, even though I have not connected Charlis with Charlish, I am satisfied with my research to date. Ancestry.com continues to add new records to its massive collection. One day I may find a new database that will answer this question.