Boswell Surname: Nomadic Romany Gypsy Heritage

by Mark

The surname Boswell has distinct links to the gypsies, in particular the Romany Gypsies from North India. This group of itinerant travellers arrived in England in the fifteenth century. They were forced to appropriate surnames because that is what was required by the English customs officials at the time. Many of these Romany gypsies assumed surnames that they had heard mentioned in the local population. Intermarriage was another means by which Romany gypsy blood entered the bloodlines of family names like Boswell and Loveridge. They were mistakenly called gypsies by the local population they encountered because they thought they were Egyptian.

There is now an established Romany and Traveller Family History Society which helps people research their family histories. The society has more than five hundred members. The Irish Travellers were another separate itinerant travelling group who came to England from Ireland. Both groups were involved in fortune telling, as a means of surviving and making money as fair ground attractions in the towns and villages they regularly visited. The Irish Travellers are thought to have been in existence from the thirteenth century in Britain, as their language dates back to this time. DNA analysis of a small sample of Travellers showed that they are a distinct ethnic strand of Irish who separated from the settled Irish communities some thousand years ago.

Boswell Surname: Nomadic Romany Gypsy Heritage

Gypsies and Travellers are famous throughout the world now, regularly depicted in movies because of their very different lifestyles. The itinerant nature of their lives is in direct contrast to the settled aspect of the majority of people in western communities. It has been disparaged throughout history and at the same time romanticised in literature and entertainment. Tarot cards, crystal balls, gaudy rings, horses, violence and a powerful family clan mentality are all things synonymous with gypsies and Travellers.

For some people discovering their ancestral link to Romany gypsies and Irish Travellers would be horrifying and for others a welcome change from the rest of the herd. The Boswell surname, although sounding typically British, is in fact, as we now know an indicator for some that they have Romany gypsy ancestry. The most famous Boswell is, of course, James Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson the creator of one of the very first English dictionaries. This biography has been claimed to be one of the very greatest biographies of all time; according to Harold Bloom literary critic, amongst others.