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The Black Death had enormous social consequences. Some of the families that survived were able to buy or rent more land and to prosper, while humble labourers got higher wages and obtained land of their own. The national population had risen considerably during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries to between four and five million, but after the disaster of the Black Death it took three centuries to recover to this level.
The majority of English people had acquired hereditary surnames before the Black Death. The poorer families in the northern half of the country were the only major group that had not yet accepted the new fashion; they were the ones who added -son to their father's name to form a distinctive type of surname in the second half of the fourteenth century. The deaths of so many people meant that large numbers of surnames withered. Many families that once shared the same surname with others now became the sole bearers of the name. Early references to a surname in different parts of the country from where the name was found later are usually misleading because they did not survive the Black Death.
Origins of surnames | The Black Death | The distribution of surnames | Tracing your family tree | DNA
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