Riddle of the most travelled Britons

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The Independent Online

People named Riddle, McRae, Granger or Crabtree have the most adventurous ancestors who are most likely to have emigrated from Britain to across the globe over the last 125 years.

But Baggotts, Blewitts and Daines are the least likely to have moved from their roots over the past five generations, according to a study of more than 100 million people's names presented at the Royal Geographical Society's annual conference yesterday.

The research also showed the first names of the richest and most disadvantaged adults in Britain. Tracey, Sharon and Michelle were among the poorest while people named Gillian, Nicholas and Geoffrey were among the most privileged.

The study also revealed the most embarrassing surnames in Britain - which have seen the biggest declines in popularity as their bearers change their names to escape the ignominy of being called Cock, Willy, Daft, Nutter or Bottom.

The five biggest decreases were seen among people named Cock, who originate from Truro, the Hickinbottoms from Derby, Handcocks from Bristol, Smellies from Glasgow and Haggards from Swindon.

Britons with embarrassing surnames have seen the biggest decreases in numbers since 1881, the academics from University College London found.

There are now only a quarter as many Cocks in Britain as would be expected, a third as many Smellies, and half as many Dafts and Shufflebottoms. The numbers of Piggs, Nutters and Bottoms has declined by around one third.

Richard Webber, visiting professor at University College London, who conducted the study said it could enable governments to plan public service provision by predicting population trends.

"The idea that different communities have to integrate is not a modern one," he said. "It has been going on ever since towns developed. In medieval times the differences between different British regions were in my opinion as great as those between people working in London today." .