Shankland Name Variants

In Family History research the objective is to gather information on members of a specific family. If, say, the line from fathers to sons is being followed, then the surname is likely to be the same from generation to generation. If other lines are being followed, then the surname will probably change on each generation, as each marriage introduces a different name.

In a One-Name Study the objective is different. Although interested in relationships within families, the One-Name Study widens its scope to take in any information relating to the name under consideration, whether a relationship is indicated or not. Obviously the hope is that in time relationships can be identified; but in the meantime the possession of the name of interest is sufficient. (This of course means that we tend to lose sight of Shankland women once they marry, but happily include women who have acquired the name by marriage. And we make absolutely no distinction between "natural" children and adopted children, or indeed between people born with the surname or those adopting it in later life.)

So the sole criterion of inclusion in a One Name Study is the name. But what name? Which names should we count as variants of Shankland, and which should we consider to be separate and unrelated names?

This is a decision which I constantly have to make in maintaining the computer database. In general I take the view that a name that sounds like Shankland, or might have been a mis-transcription of Shankland, should be included.

Some of these variants are quite clearly mis-spellings or mistranscriptions such as Sharkland or Sharklard for Shankland, or Shanklen for Shanklin. Others do seem to be genuinely distinct variants, carrying down from father to son, even allowing for the fact that old documents of any length are quite likely to include two or even more variants of the name for the same person. Names also seem to have gone through definite phases in that a name spelt (and presumably pronounced) one way in one county might turn up as a different spelling (and pronunciation) when the family moved to a different county. In earlier ages when literacy was not so widespread as it is now, the current insistence on accuracy where names are concerned would have been inappropriate.

To date I have included some two dozen variants/deviants of the name. Of the events recorded in the database, the frequency of each variant is as shown in the table (right).

Variant Occurrences
Shankland 12009
Shanklin 2656
Shanklyn 177
Shankiland 126
Shankeland 4
Shankieland 7
Schankeland 7
Schankland 9
Shankilaw 44
Schankilaw 7
Schankelaw 6
Shanklynd 1
Shanklend 1
Shanklind 2
Shanklands 16
Shanklan 50
Shanklane 1
Shanklen 19
Shanklene 2
Shanenklend 1
Shyngland 4
Chankelyn 1
Shangelan 1

Discounting obvious mistranscriptions or mishearings, such as Shanklynd, Shanklen, Shanklane, Shanklene, the names used appear to fall into three groups:

What I find interesting about these variants is that they are quite limited in both place and time.


Shankilaw appears to be restricted to Lanarkshire around the 17th and early 18th centuries; the parishes mentioned being Lanark, Lamington, Symington, Roberton. There are no occurrences after 1750. The name appears in clusters, separated by about 25 years or so, giving the impression of a single family group going through several generations in the same area.


Shankiland is much more frequent than Shankilaw. The Shankiland occurrences are similarly clustered, over a slightly later period (late 17th - 18th century), but in Dumfriesshire and on its border with Kirkcudbrightshire. This might not have been a separate name from Shankland but simply reflected the way the name was pronounced in the area. There are no occurrences of the name after 1850.

Both Shankilaw and Shankiland appear to predate Shankland, which occurs hardly at all prior to 1750. In some early records such as the Privy Council Records of the 1680s, the same individual may have his name rendered as Shankilaw and Shankiland in the same document. It is interesting to speculate on how the name was pronounced if these two spellings were considered equivalent.

Shanklin, Shanklyn

The name variant Shanklin/Shanklyn is also an interesting one. In America Shanklin appears to be some ten times more frequent than Shankland, but in Britain it is much less common - probably less than a tenth as frequent.

It would be easy to interpret the Shanklin variant as a mis-hearing of the name Shankland - especially here in the south of England, with the proximity of the town of Shanklin on the Isle of Wight and the relative rarity of the name of Shankland. However, the distribution of the name belies this. The name Shanklin is almost completely absent from Scotland, but in Ireland this variant occurs more frequently than Shankland. In Wales the name is frequently spelt Shanklyn, a variant not found elsewhere. Also in Wales there is evidence that the name changed between generations, especially in the case of some Carmarthenshire Shankland families who moved to Pembrokeshire in the mid-Victorian era and became Shanklins. In fact it is noticeable that the names Shanklin and Shankland are frequently used, at least outside Scotland, as if they were interchangeable - one marriage record in Ireland giving the variants Shankill, Shanklin, and Shankland for the same person, the last being the signature.

Sometimes there is evidence that a deliberate choice was made in favour of Shanklin as opposed to Shankland. We have seen the following examples:

Anne Shankland, April 2006