News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Family names in genealogy

    Genealogists will often find that naming patterns are much more prominent in their ancestry that in more modern generations.  The same forenames were often passed down to each generation in turn, be it the more usual John and William, or perhaps more unusual forenames.  Indeed, it can be such naming patterns which can help prove a family tree, when other evidence is missing.

    During recent research in the parish of Felsted, Essex, one of our genealogists came across several interesting forenames repeated in the family being researched.  In particular, the forename Esdras appeared in the late eighteenth century, and was in almost every generation back to the early 1600s.  This intriguing name is a Latin version of the biblical Ezra, and it was clearly important to the family to pass this name on.

    A later Esdras at Felsted was married to a lady named Summers, and the couple passed her forename on to their own daughter.  Whilst Esdras was a biblical name, it was likely that Summers was named for a maternal surname in her family tree, for this is more usually found as a surname.

    Another example of a surname being used as a forename is the instance in the neighboring parish of Stebbing, Essex, of the baptism of Loveday Chopping in 1771.  Loveday is more usually found as a surname, and again had clearly been passed down as a forename as a memorial of a branch of the family.

    So if you have any more unusual forenames in your family history, investigate further and see how long they have been present, and where they may have originated!

  2. Born during a thunderstorm?

    The theme of the week has been forenames representing weather events, and today’s focus is on the name Storm.  The first instance of Storm as a forename in General Registration, which began in July 1837, is the marriage of a Storm Beard in 1839 in Bath.  Storm is a British surname, so it is possible that he was named after a maternal surname in his family tree.  Alternatively, he may simply have been born during some memorable weather!

    This seems to be the case for Stormy Thompson who was born in Sunderland in 1851, and who died just a year later.  Perhaps the most interesting name found during this search is Stormy Petrel Hodgson, born in 1887 in Poplar.  Whilst this child was born in London, perhaps it’s parents had an affinity with marine life as well as the weather!

    Storm is more usually found as a surname, and intriguingly the first Storm entry in General Registration is the death of one Christmas Storm in 1837 in Yorkshire.  What a name combination!

  3. A son or daughter named Rainbow?

    Today’s weather in Kent has lost it’s appeal!  Rain has been coming down all morning, and looks set to stay in for the day.  Whereas last week we looked at the name Spring when used as a forename, today we considered the name Rain and Rainbow.

    Very few children were called “Rain” when looking in the General Registration birth indexes, although Rainbow appeared with more frequency.  As with the name Spring, it appeared to be used as both a boy and girls name.  This unusual choice of forename may have been inspired by a particularly spectacular rainbow appearing at the time of their birth, perhaps after a storm.

    Equally however, further research suggests that the surname Rainbow appears with more frequency, with nearly 4000 birth entries for the period 1837-1930.  Family commemoration may also have influenced the giving of Rainbow as a first name, as much as unusual weather.  Either way, surely this forename would have been shortened to “Rain” by friends and family?!

  4. A son named Faster?!

    Genealogists will always find odd names and variant spellings when examining parish registers and other records.  A slightly more unusual forename was found last week when one of our searches was examining the baptism records of Eggesford in Devon: Faster Mander was baptised there in 1708.

    Further investigation reveals that Faster is perhaps not as unique a forename as first appears.  Indeed, the 1911 census suggests that 54 people have this as a forename or middle name.  In fact, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was usually given as a middle name, and presumably was used in commemoration of a maternal surname from the family tree.  Faster is by no means a rare surname.

    But some children were saddled with Faster as their only forename, and it begs the question whether they were known by this name, or a knickname?  Fast, perhaps.

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