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Where do Taylors come from?

There is much fascination about where we, ultimately, come from. It is a hard thing to puzzle out and DNA can give us only part of the answer. Archeology, anthropology & history help to fill in the blanks. Our primary focus is on Europe and Great Britain, as that is the origin of most of our Taylor DNA lines.

A warning, however: If you are offended by the idea that the world is much older than 6,000 years, do not read further! Our timeline of events affecting our Taylor ancestors will upset you.

The Short Answer

Not all one place. Most Taylor lines of descent appear to have originated in Great Britain, specifically England & Scotland. Some immigrants to Britain and the US from non-English-speaking countries anglicized their surnames to Taylor.

The overwhelming evidence debunks the notion that all Taylors are related within the number of generations for which it's possible to do genealogy (the "genealogical time frame"). At the time (ca1350) that surnames came into universal use for common people, many formerly un-surnamed families adopted the Taylor name.

Our best -- but highly unofficial -- estimate is that the original lines of Taylors numbers somewhere between 2,500 to 7,000.

How many of us were there?

That too is hard. We are, of course, part of a larger whole, whose outlines are only dimly known. We do know that those who later got the Taylor surname were part of the population of Europe and probably living in the British Isles when surnames came in general use -- shortly after 1350. We can get only rough estimates for how many lived in Europe and Britain. Here is a chart of the total population estimates, beginning with the end of the last Ice Age:

Notice how the two curves roughly parallel each other; they rise and fall about the same times. (Europe & Britain are on separate scales, differing by an order of magnitude.)

Events affecting the numbers & places of people

Some notable events had significant effects on the population of Europe and Britain and, eventually, America:

Population-ancestor paradox

This is most simply stated this way:

As we go back in generations, we have more ancestors but there were not enough people living then to account for all of our ancestors.

But, we do not draw our ancestors from all of the world, or Europe or England. We draw, instead, from several different locations, where selection of mates was limited. In short, many of our ancestors occupy multiple places on our pedigree charts.

How many Taylors?

For most of the period charted -- none; No one carried this surname or any other for that matter. But we may estimate that our ancestors were about 1% of the population in the British Isles after 1066.

More current statistics have Taylors at about 3/10% of the populations of the US & UK, However, we estimate that the proportion has been reduced in both countries by immigration and was, therefore, higher in the past.

If Taylors represented 1/2 to 1% of the British population in the post-Plague era, that means there were about 14,000 to 28,000 Taylor-surnamed people in England in 1360. If the average family size was four to five with father, mother and children -- there were , to 7,000 families bearing the name.

What is our pre-history?

About one million years ago, the entire population of early human species  -- including Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and archaic Homo sapiens -- was almost wiped out by something unknown. The world's entire early humanlike population was reduced to a maximum of about 55,000 individuals. The evidence is based on DNA studies of genetic diversity. (See Scientific American.) 

450,000 years ago, "Boxgrove man" lived in England. With the climate much warmer than today, he needed to defend himself against lions, rhinoceros and elephants as well as wolves and bears. He lived in caves and made simple stone tools.

140,000 years ago, the "Mitochondrial Eve", who would (much later) gain fame in Richard Dawkins' book, was bearing daughters. She was, apparently, much older than "Y-chromosomal Adam", whose age is estimated at 60,000 to 90,000 years — a new twist on May/December romances.

Revision: New discoveries now put the age of Y-DNA Adam troughly 338,000 years. Adam was the "December" and Eve the "May".

About 70,000 years ago, the population crashed greatly again in an event sometimes called the "DNA bottleneck". Some theorize it was caused by eruption of a super-volcano  producing a long perpetual winter and 1,000 year global cooling. Whatever caused this calamity, many DNA lines of modern humans ceased to exist. It is estimated that the number of men and women able to reproduce was reduced to 10,00 (or even as low as 1,000) pairs in small groups isolated from each other. All of us today descend from those few thousand.

The evidence for the 70 KYA crash is composed of many parts -- anthropological, archeological, geological, genetic, & paleontological. (See "Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Human Evolution".)

About 40,000 years ago, early modern humans were living in Europe, alongside their distant cousins, the Neanderthals. Both species made tools of stone, bone and wood.  By 25,000 years ago, the Neanderthals had disappeared and our ancestors had Europe to themselves. (Source.)

Note: At about this point, the ~2,000 year difference between BC/AD and "years ago" (before present) starts to get significant.

15,000 years ago, sophistication of tools improved. People in Britain made clothing from animal skins and jewelry from bone, teeth and shells. The terrain was mostly tundra; few trees grew in Britain.

12,000 years ago, the last Ice Age, or "glacial maximum", began to end: Most of the known population of Europe had been confined to the warmer, southern sections, known as "refugia". (If there were people living on the ice sheets, they left no remaining traces.) Britain has had people a very long time, partly due to the southern portion not having been covered by ice sheets. The retreat of the ice had two important effects:

10,000 years ago, the development of agriculture in Mesopotamia marked the beginning of the Neolithic (late Stone Age) period. (Some estimates place it as much as 2,000 years earlier.) In England, the climate warmed and forests began to proliferate. 

6,500 years ago, the practice of farming was introduced to England. Crops of wheat and barley were raised and domesticated cattle, pigs and sheep (as well as hunting) provided meat. British mined flint for making tools and dug elaborate burial chambers. Clothing, however, was still animal skins.

5,800 years ago, the people in Britain were of sufficient numbers and prosperity to build roads which still exist.  Those early Britons may have been (mostly) Celtic.

4,500 years ago, circular monuments called "henges" (Stonehenge being the most famous) began to be built. At first, they were simple ditches with local stones and wooden poles. This period lasted a thousand years.

4,000 years ago, the Bronze Age began in earnest in England. The British were making their own bronze by smelting copper and tin together in an alloy, which was much stronger and able to hold an edge than copper alone.

3,000 years ago, forts were built on hills. Fighting had become prevalent, probably in contests for arable land.

2,650 years ago, The Celtic people introduced iron into England. They were divided into tribes who warred against each other. Swords & spears made of iron were used from horseback or light chariots as well as on foot.

The Celts

Society was divided into classes:

Of interest to Taylors, the Celts wore garments of woven cloth, rather than skins. Men wore long-sleeved tunics and long trousers; women wore long dresses and mantles. They dyed the cloth with plant materials in blues, reds and yellows. Wealthy Celts wore gold ornaments, called "torques", around their necks.

The Celts traded extensively with continental Europe. they exported metals, wool, cloth and grain. They imported luxuries such as fine pottery and expensive metal goods. They lived in round houses built around a central poles, with walls of wattle and daubed mud and thatched roofs. Benches around the walls also served as beds.

The Celts are thought to have originated in central Europe and gradually spread outward, eventually enveloping the British Isles, where their culture is most strongly felt in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Their language had a different base than the Indo-European of others. For further reading, Anglo-Celtic.org.uk is suggested.


We Taylors are blends of many parts: Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Norse, French and others. We haven't even mentioned the Jewish, Polish, Hungarian and other immigrants who may have anglicized their names.


We don't know who it was that were living in Britain before the Celts arrived. We don't know what language they spoke or what genes they had. we don't know if they were absorbed into the general society or ceased to exist.

Celtic influence

The Celtic influence on our Taylor ancestors shows up mostly in DNA. The Celtic language has disappeared from much of Britain, but Celtic DNA shows up strongly in the south and west of England -- not to mention Wales, Scotland & Ireland.

Viking/Norse influence

That the Vikings simply killed, pillaged and sailed back to their homeland is not the whole picture. They established many permanent settlements in the British Isles, as well as other lands. Over time, they melded with the local population.

A significant number of those in Taylor Family Genes have a haplotype associated with Scandinavia. The influence of the Viking raids and conquest of Britain are shown in both language & DNA. In both,  there is some overlap with the Anglo-Saxon. Norse influence is strongest in the parts most accessible by sea.

About one-third of the words in English come from the Norse language, including words such as star (for something to steer by) and barn are Norse.

Anglo-Saxon influence

The base of the English language -- one third of the words (especially, the cruder ones) and the grammar come from the Anglo-Saxons. The dialect of Frisia (a region extending along the North Sea from the Netherlands to the border of Denmark) is the closest counterpart of English.

Anglo-Saxon DNA is almost indistinguishable from that of the Celts generally.

Norman influence

William and his successors overlaid a language (French) and customs on the foundation they found in England. The remaining one-third of English words come from French. For a thousand years,