News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Festive surnames – Easter, Christmas and Yule

    Easter is rapidly approaching, and our thoughts have turned to festive surnames.  In fact, the surname Easter is not that rare, with over 3000 Easter births registered in General Registration within the period 1837-1915.

    Like the surnames Christmas and Yule, if your name is Easter then it could be that an earlier ancestor was born on Easter day, or had some other connection to Easter.  However, unlike these other two surnames, Easter does have other possible etymological origins.

    It could derive from someone living east of somewhere, or it could be a locational surname from villages in Essex, whose name in turn probably derives from the Old English ‘eowestre’ meaning sheepfold.

    So if your surname is Easter, your ancestors may have been born on Easter day, they may have lived in the east, or near a sheepfold!

  2. A back to front surname

    Every day you discover something new in genealogy. Research revealed that George Nyleve an artist was the illegitimate son of John Evelyn, a rather wealthy gentleman. He was named Nyleve which is Evelyn backwards.

  3. The meaning of a Badger

    Names can have many origins and meanings. One example of this is a Badger.

    “Badgers” was a term used in Tudor times to refer to a licensed beggar. It is thought that the origin of the surname Badger derived from this occupation or from those whose who made bags.

    Another possible origin of the surname was as a habitation name taken from a  small parish in Shropshire.

    So if you are a Badger one of your earliest ancestors were either a peddle, a bag maker or from Shopshire. What is certain was they were not named after the animal!

    Just to complicate things further part of the Old Poor Law Settlement Act of 1697 required those receiving poor relief to wear a badge on their right shoulder bearing the letter “P” and as a results paupers became know as “badgers”. However this was long after surnames were established. This act stayed in force until 1810.

    The term badger was not used for the animal until the 16th Century. The earliest recorded use was in 1523. Before that, it was called a “brock” or “bauson”. National Badger day is the 6th October every year.


  4. New study on the origins of names

    The Guardian has an interesting article on a four-year study by linguists and historians which analysed family names by looking at British and Irish records back to the 11th century . Whilst the theory of the origin of many names, such as Smith, has not changed some have been reassessed. The work, The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, has been published in four volumes and will be available in public libraries with a subscription. The original article can be viewed

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  5. The surname Poldark . . . . ?

    The epic adaptation of the Winston Graham novels about Ross Poldark has, finally, come back to our televisions on Sunday nights.  Set in Cornwall, they portray brooding Ross Poldark’s shenanigans with his mine business, and relationships.

    But what of the surname Poldark?  Is it really a Cornish name?  Well no, is the short answer.  Searches of records of General Registration for the 19th century do not find one reference to the surname whatsoever, in Cornwall or otherwise.

    Similarly, searches of the International Genealogical Index, being transcripts of registers of parishes across every county in England, reveals no reference to the surname at all.  The closest to the surname are some sixteenth century isolated examples of variants including Poltord, Poltrid and Paltork.

    A similar situation emerges when considering the surname of Ross Poldark’s arch rival, George Warleggan.  Warleggan just does not appear as a surname within modern genealogical sources, or indeed within the International Genealogical Index.  Variants that do emerge include Worlech, Worlock and Warling, although it appears that in the end both Warleggan and Poldark were created for Graham’s books.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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?!

  9. 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.

  10. Local dialect surnames

    As all genealogists will have found, family surnames were often spelled in a variety of ways.  Spelling simply was not consistent, even into the twentieth century, and widespread illiteracy compounded this in earlier generations: normal working people would not have been able to confirm the spelling of their surnames to the authorities.

    Spellings may be so inconsistent, some imagination may be needed to connect them. Equally, saying the surname aloud in a local dialect may help matters.

    Whilst researching a Reynolds family from Norfolk, a baptism was found in the parish registers of one James “Rannells”.  It was exactly correct based on date and place when compared to census records.  But how to explain the spelling variant?  Indeed, saying “Reynolds” in a broad Norfolk accent renders it very similar to “Rannells”.  Perhaps the local clergyman had recently graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, and simply had not yet gotten used to the local accent.

    Having trouble with spelling variants?  Try saying the surnames in the local dialect, and see how many variants you can find!



December 2018
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