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Reply to a Dissenting View

Geoff Hodgson


Based on my research on the geographical distribution in The Hodgson Surname (1993), I published an article on ‘Surname History: A New Technique’ in the February 1997 issue of Family Tree Magazine (Vol. 13, No. 4). I argued in the book and article that the surname distribution evidence supported the thesis that Hodgson derived from Norse forenames.

Mr. Peter Christian published a critique of my argument in the June 1997 issue of the same magazine, with a rejoinder by me. In 2001 Mr. Christian placed a revised and expanded version of his critique on the Web ( He follows the esteemed etymologist P. H. Reaney in arguing that Hodgson is derived from the nickname Hodge, which in turn derives from Roger.

Here I take the opportunity to reply at length to his argument. My full reply can be downloaded HERE. Some of my responses are as follows:

·         I deny Mr. Christian’s charge that I ignore the evidence of surname etymologists. Etymologists give different explanations of the Hodgson surname and we must choose among them.

·         Although distributional evidence from post-1539 parish registers is not ideal for our purposes, and we lack vital evidence from earlier centuries, the distributional evidence that we do have should be given taken into account.

·         Mr. Christian himself uses piecemeal surname distribution evidence to attempt to refute my argument, but nowhere gives the overall distributional picture any practical weight.

·         Mr. Christian argues that because the derivation from Roger and Hodge is the ‘accepted view’ then we must treat it as valid. But if we must accept a consensus view as true simply because it is accepted by the consensus, then science would never be able to make any progress.

·         The Hodgson surname is much more densely concentrated in Cumbria and Lonsdale than elsewhere. Mr. Christian provides no evidence or explanation why the forenames Hodge or Roger were more common in these areas than elsewhere. By contrast, forenames such as Oddgeir and Hrodgeir would have been more frequent, because these were areas of Norse settlement, where the Norse language endured for centuries.

·         Mr. Christian doubts that Oddson could evolve into Hodgson, because the addition of an ‘h’ and ‘g’ would be ‘impossible’. I point out that my fuller argument is that Hodgson evolved from Oddgeirson, which may help to explain the ‘g’. I give examples of several place names, recorded as beginning with ‘O’ in the Domesday Book, that later acquired a leading ‘H’. It is also possible that Hodgson derives from the Norse name Hrodgeir.

·         In discussing the evolution of the Hodgson surname, the existence of different languages in the North of England for several centuries, general illiteracy, and the lack of standardised spellings, all have to be taken into account.