We just recently discovered your podcast and are enjoying it greatly.
I’ve always been interested in history and also genealogy or family history.
I could not help but wonder if this episode might not help explain something that has been quite puzzling about my surname, “Elliott” which has over 80 variants throughout primarily the British Isles & France as well as a few other European countries.
Keith Elliot Hunter, historian for the Elliot Clan Society in the UK writes that all Elliot surname variants in the British Isles originated from a contingent of Bretons who accompanied William the Conqueror in 1066 and who are thought to have originated in and taken their name from, the HALEGOUËT forest in Brittany.
Evidently “haleg” mean “willow” in Welsh/Cornish/Breton.
Greatly simplified, the evolution of the surname may have proceeded something like:
HALEGOUËT >ELLÉGOUET > ELLÉOUET > ELLIGOTT > ELLIOT.
Today, the most common variant by far is Elliott but throughout the British Isles are found Eliot, Elyot, Elliot, Eliott, Alliot, McElligott, and even Alyth (a town in Perthshire) to name but a very few of the more common.
There is an old rhyme which commemorates the more common spelling differences:
The double L and single T descend from Minto and Wolflee,
The double T and single L mark the old race in Stobs that dwell.
The single L and single T the Eliots of St Germains be,
But double T and double L, who they are nobody can tell.
It has long been clear that spelling was a free-for-all among early scribes, and since many, if not most, of those they created documents for were illiterate, there were few in any position to debate the scribes’ spelling choices.
One can occasionally find multiple spellings of the same word or surname on the same page of some old documents.
This episode of your podcast made me wonder if the various spellings, sometimes with double or single consonants, might not provide clues as to how our surname was pronounced as it migrated through various districts & dialects, and as it moved north from the West Country into Scotland and then Ireland.