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About Us

Names. Love them or hate them, we all have them!

The name stories in adoption study is the first to explore naming in adoption in the UK. It focuses on adoptees and adopters as people whose experiences of the multiple ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ functions of forenames and surnames are especially likely to be significant and complex.

We use life-story interviewing and creative life-writing methods to capture ‘name stories’ through which adults describe and make sense of their adoption-related naming and identity experiences.

  • Who is doing the study?

    This study is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and is carried out by researchers from Nottingham Trent University

    The researchers are advised by a steering committee whose members include adoptees and adopters, and a counselor qualified in psychotherapy.

  • What is the purpose of the study?

    The purpose of this study is to explore experiences of names and naming in adoptive family life. We aim to explore identities, family relationships and belonging revealed through ‘name stories’, told by adopters and by adults who were adopted as children. Ultimately, findings will be used to develop understanding of naming in adoption and may contribute towards improved policies and practices. 

  • Who has taken part?

    This study explores ‘name stories’ told by adults who are adoptees or by people who have been adopted.  This could be many decades ago or more recently. Participants in our study are:

    • Adults (18+) who were adopted in England or Wales in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s
    • People who have adopted (adopters) in England or Wales

Who We Are

Jane PilcherJane Pilcher
Principal Investigator

Dr Jane Pilcher

Dr Jane Pilcher is the Principal Investigator on the adoption name stories project. She is Associate Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University

Jane is an expert in personal naming practices, in terms of identities and bodies, gendered forenames, and also family surname choices in the context of greater diversity and flexibility in contemporary gender identities and family relationships. Jane is the founder and director of the People's Names Research Network, an affiliation of academics around the world who study personal names.

Follow Jane on Twitter @sociologyblog

Amanda CoffeyAmanda Coffey
Co Investigator

Professor Amanda Coffey

Professor Amanda Coffey is a Co-Investigator on the adoption name stories project. She is  Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). 

Prior to joining UWE Bristol in 2020, Amanda spent 30 years at Cardiff University in a variety of roles including head of the School of Social Sciences, and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Standards and Student Experience. Amanda is a sociologist, with a track record of research in a range of social science areas. These include education, young people, transitions to adulthood, and adoption studies. She has particular interest and expertise in ethnography and qualitative research methods.

Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaJCoffey

Eve makisEve makis
Co Investigator

Eve Makis

Eve is a Co-Investigator on the adoption name stories project. Eve is a lecturer in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University and is the author of four novels and a life writing guide, The Accidental Memoir, published by Harper Collins in 2019. 

Eve is recipient of the Young Booksellers International Book of the Year Award and her works have been shortlisted for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and the East Midlands Book Award. She works extensively in the community delivering writing workshops.

Follow Eve on Twitter @EveMakis

Hannah Deakin-SmithHannah Deakin-Smith

Hannah Deakin-Smith

Hannah is a researcher on the adoption name stories project. Hannah joined the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University in 2021 working on the British Academy funded project ‘Say my name’, examining student and staff experiences of name (mis)pronunciation in higher education. She was a qualitative researcher on the European Union funded project “POCARIM”, exploring academic mobility.

Hannah completed her PhD in the geography department at Loughborough University in 2012, focusing on international student mobility. Hannah volunteers for Sure Start children centre services in the East Midlands where she has completed several research projects reviewing service provisions and user experiences.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahldeakin

Dr Jan FlahertyDr Jan Flaherty

Dr Jan Flaherty

Jan is a researcher on the adoption and name stories project. Jan has previously held posts as a qualitative researcher at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, Durham University and most recently, King’s College, London. Jan studied at Loughborough University, where she completed her PhD on discourses of poverty in 2008, under the supervision of Prof Ruth Lister (Baroness Lister of Burtersett).

Jan’s research interests are identity, class, poverty and social exclusion in the UK, homelessness and creative research methods.

Follow Jan on Twitter @jan_flaherty22