I started researching my own family in 1987 and thought that with such an unusual name that this would not be difficult!
At the time I could not find much information before the birth of my grandfather. However, because Grannum, and its variants, is extremely uncommon I decided to extract all entries I could find. I registered the name with the Guild of One-Name Studies in early 1988.
There is a lot of potential for variation in the way Grannum is spelt or transcribed. Most people when they first hear my name write 'Granham'. Listening to the name it is reasonable to expect Granham, Gronum, Grenham, Grenem, Grannon etc, and even Cranham, Crenum etc. Transcriptions and indexes of handwritten documents will reveal similar errors with G and C being interchangable, r seen as i, a seen as o, e or u, and the 'nnum' as a series of 9 minims (downstrokes, iiiiiiiii) so you can get 'nimin', 'minin', 'nniun' etc. And then you will find n and h, h, k and r, and u and v, variations as well as letters being added, removed or swapped.
There are very few documented variants of Grannum, the main one being Granham. Both are uncommon names and in the United Kingdom seem to be unrelated. In the English speaking Caribbean, where Grannum is the more common form, they are interchangable until the mid-1800s.
It is has been suggested that Granham is a variant or misspelling for Greenham, Grenham, Grandham, Grantham, or Garnham. Although all of these can be found as misspellings and mistranscriptions of Grannum or Granham I have not yet found these to be confirmed variants. It is more common where there are Grannum or Granham entries in indexes and registers that they are mispellings of Garnham, Greenham, and Cranham etc and even Graham.
The Historical Research Center, which publishes surname histories, suggests that Grannum is an anglicized version of the Irish surname MacRaghnaill from which originate the names Reynolds, Grannin, Grannon and Grannan. Again, these names, where they relate to Grannum are usually mistransciptions and misspellings. There is no evidence that the name originates in Ireland or Scotland - I am happy to be proved wrong!! There are Grannums in Scotland but most can trace their family back to William Grannum, a sailor from either Barbados or Guyana, who settled in Leith, Edinburgh in the 1870s.
It is most likely that Granham is a variant of Cranham and in the 1881 UK census both occur in the same localities.
I have often heard that Grannum is Scandinavian and there are Grannums from Denmark and Norway but this is a variant of Granum. Grannum/Granham does not seem to be related to Granum, which is Norwegian and fairly recent in origin. This name which is probably named after a location or farm is common in Southern Norway such as in Sondreland and Opland. Gran=fir um=place. If you have Granum families you may wish to check out the Granum message board on Rootsweb and on Scott White's website.
From my research I believe that the name originated in Barbados in the 18th century. Indeed, all the Grannums I have been in contact with have come from the Caribbean and in particular Barbados.
There were Granhams and Garnhams in Barbados in the 17th and early 18th centuries but these were isolated individuals and do not seem to have been related or to have left descendants in the islands. The surname Grannum can be shown to have been in continuous use in Barbados since the 1780s.
The earliest Grannum entry in Barbados is to Andrew Granham who was baptised on 13 June 1742 in St Thomas, the son of William and Ann. He had a brother William who died (as a Grannum) in 1780. I cannot find a baptism for William, or any other children for William and Ann, neither can I find their marriage. However, on 17 April 1735 a William Crannum married Ann Mullins (widow) in St James' parish.
Is this the same couple as William and Ann Granham? I cannot find any other references to Crannum in Barbados. Where did William Crannum come from?
I believe, but cannot prove that William Crannum was transported to Barbados in 1723. In Peter Wilson Coldham's, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage 1614-1775 (Genealogical Publishing Co Inc, Baltimore, 1988) a William Crannum was sentenced at St Philip and Jacob at the Gloucester Assizes, Lent 1723, to transportation to America for stealing (images of from the Assize record are on my Flickr photostream). Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any references where he was transported to - nothing appears to have survived in The National Archives (Public Record Office), Gloucester Record Office or Bristol Record Office.
If these William Crannums are the same person then modern day Grannums can trace their surname, although not necessarily their family, to William Crannum of Gloucestershire.
This last point is important to note: people with Barbadian roots will find that their ancestors did not follow the same naming patterns as found in traditional British families, where parents usually marry before having children, and children inherit their father's surname. Most Barbadians are descended from African slaves brought to the island to work on plantations. Until they were freed either through grants of freedom or when slavery was abolished there on 1 August 1834, most did not have legally recognised surnames. It is possible that some African-Caribbean people took the name from white Grannum owners, and at least one family did so, but others may have chosen the surname or been given it by officials. Also, most children were born outside of legal marriage and therefore took their mother's surname; many may have later taken their father's surname. Caribbean family practices and naming practices is confusing and one of the most frustrating challenges to tracing Grannum families. My book, Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors (Bloomsbury, 2012) and articles on Caribbean genealogy on Moving Here and the BBC describes my understanding of how people descended from slaves may have got their surnames.
There is a parish called Cranham in Gloucestershire and it is possible that this may be the origin of the Crannum. The meaning of Cranham is 'Homestead of meadow haunted by herons'. I have not researched Cranham, except when to look for missing Grannums, but some time I may look for Cranhams before 1720 in the West Country.
I have not found any famous (or infamous) Grannums but a few have found their way into obituaries and minor biographical volumes:
Grannum is an uncommon name. An Office of National Statistics online database for England and Wales (September 2002) says that there are 84 Grannums, which is ranked 36,926th. The 1990 US census database ranks the name 56,962th]. Granham is not found.
Barbados has the greatest concentration of Grannums, which supports my hypothesis that the name originates there. In common with many Caribbean families Grannums have migrated to Canada, USA, other Caribbean and American countries especially Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and Panama, the UK, and a few families live in Australia and Germany.
Outside of Barbados most Grannums can be found in the USA and in the UK. The first Grannum to settle in the UK was William Grannum a ship's steward from Barbados (some records say Guyana) who settled in Leith, Edinburgh in the 1870s, a few others arrive during the early 1900s but most came with the Windrush generation during the 1950s and 1960s.
Most of my data has been compiled from records in the UK and Barbados. It is stored in loose folders, box files and I am gradually transferring the information to databases. I currently have over 2600 entries in my database and family trees for 3 main families and several minor trees of just a few generations. The 3 main families are:
The main sources are:
United Kingdom (mainly England and Scotland)
Miscellaneous entries from directories, websites, online databases, newspapers, correspondence and records for UK, Barbados, USA, Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Panama, and Canada
The Grannum DNA project has recently been set up at Family Tree DNA.
A Grannum community has formed on Facebook http://www.facebook.com. You need to first register and after registering search Grannum and click on the groups tab. You may meet some relatives.
Many of the more useful sources I have used to research Grannums are included on my Caribbean Roots website.
For further information, contact:
Mr Guy Grannum
This page last updated 26 January 2013.
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Profiles of other one-name studies registered with the Guild may be found here.