Sunday, 24 November 2013

What's in a name?

I have tended to roll my eyes at people who give their kids ridiculous names - er, I mean "unusual" names -  but it certainly makes genealogy more interesting to get a break from the regular Sarahs, Williams, Roberts, Annes and Elizabeths. They can be damn useful too, not just because of the relative ease of tracing a more unusual name, but because it can give some inklings into the family character and culture.

For instance - the place-based names. Take my partner's 2x great-grandfather, Henry Judd. Born in Hertfordshire in 1835, he came to Tasmania as a child, and became one of the early settlers in the Huon; he explored and prospected, and after his death the Hobart Mercury described him as "the most indefatigable of the old Huon pioneers". Henry named one of his daughters Amelia Franklena, probably in reference to either the Franklin River or the town of Franklin, Tasmania, where she was born. Henry's son William Joshua Judd continued this tradition, naming his second son Eric Huon after the Huon district. It does interest me that Eric was not born in the Huon, but in Victoria.

I did think this was a quirk of that particular family until I found others in the tree with place-related names, including my partner's grand-uncle Charles Murray Byrnes (whose father Thomas Byrnes was a water bailiff in Koondrook, Nyah and Swan Hill, all places on the Murray River) and his great-grand-uncle, Edward Cecil Northcote James, born (unsurprisingly) in Northcote.

The James family also held to another form of unusual naming, that of naming children after an admired or exalted person. Cecil Northcote James' father was named Charles Lemon James. I was puzzled about where the "Lemon" came from as it didn't seem to be a family surname. I found my answer while researching Falmouth, where Charles' father William Hill James was born. He was baptised a Quaker, and one of the prominent Quaker citizens in the area was Sir Charles Lemon, 1784-1868, MP and baronet with strong links to Falmouth, the mining industry, and Cornwall in general. Another of William Hill James' children was named Harriet Dunstanvill - presumably a connection to Dunstanville Terrace in Falmouth.

Sadly my own family are not nearly as entertaining with names for the most part. I do have a cousin a few times removed with the middle name "Jubilee" - and he's not alone for children born in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. My favourite unusual naming family, though, belongs to my first cousin 3 times removed, Eliza Fitzgibbon. She married a gentleman whose surname was Aris, and their children carried on the A theme with double-A names, except the eldest and youngest:

  • Annie Eliza Aris 
  • Albert Alfred Aris 
  • Arthur Alexander Aris 
  • Amelia Adelaide Aris 
  • Agnes Alexandra Aris 
  • Augustus Archibald Aris 
  • Arnold Adolphus Aris 
  • Algernon Aubrey Aris 
  • Francis John Aris 
One can only wonder what happened with Francis John. He was born in 1912 and named for his father, who died only two years later; perhaps he was already ill, and little Francis was named in love and honour of him?

1 comment:

  1. One of my ancestors, George Hall, also used place names for some of his children: James Hawkesbury Hall & Ebenezer Hall.