This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 24th May 1993, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called NEWMAN?

People who have recently arrived in a place are often referred to as being "new". There are plenty of examples: in a street one hears allusions to "those new people at number -" or "those new people who've taken over so-and-so's old place." And, most certainly, we have all gone through the process of being "new boys" or "new girls" as we went up from one school to another.

So it is not surprising that when strangers were brought into a community, our ancestors referred to them collectively as "the new people", and, no doubt, individually as "the new man". It is, of course, a situation that was not special to this country: it was happening all over Europe and the name "Newman" has its equivalents in many other languages, as, for example, the Germanic "Neumann" and the Nordic "Nieumann."

Where the newcomers came from in the first place and why they "came" anyway is something which has long been forgotten. It is just possible that some people from the Low Countries settled in the East of England because the earliest record of the name can be found in Norfolk for 1166. It might well be that the "new men" possessed some special skills because the name is prevalent in the West Midlands, and this suggests that whoever or whatever induced them to come to this Island in the first place caused them to move away from the coastal districts towards the centre of England.

The name "Newman" seems to have assumed its present form by the Twelfth century and has admitted of very few variations, of which "Nyman" is one. Although many surnames are based on place-names, "Newman" is not one of them and the similarity between it and names such as "Newnham", "Newnam", and "Newnum" as well as our local "Newholme" is quite misleading because these words refer to "new sites" or "new settlements" and not new arrivals.

The most famous bearer of the name is Cardinal Newman ("Lead Kindly Light") whose ancestors had come over from the Netherlands and settled in Cambridgeshire - but whether this has any real bearing on his name is not certain. There are about. 200 families listed in the local directories.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 24th May 1993.

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