Article Title

Contrary Cognomina


John Holgate


Many of our surnames have origins in the nomenclature of trades and professions. Once upon a time Smiths were smiths, Butchers were butchers and Carpenters were carpenters. Holgate, for example, derives from the common noun tollgate. Back in the eleventh century my ancestors were rewarded for collecting tolls and swelling the royal coffers with a Norman castle in Shropshire. Nowadays a profession-based patronym does not oblige its owner to continue in the cognominal business. Just as well - I have no desire to work as a toll collector on the motorway or an assessor in the Tax Office.