I am not named after anyone and none of my direct female ancestors are called Caroline. My brother has the same name as our paternal uncle, and by coincidence the first name of four of our very distant great grandfathers. Our mother shared her name with her maternal aunt.
I had never really worked out how common the names of my direct ancestors actually were, although I was vaguely aware that there were several called George as it is a name I always type incorrectly, as well as some Josephs, also a nightmare for me to type! Out of interest I decided to work it out and, after a painful morning of relearning how to use charts in Excel, discovered that there were three times as many Johns as there were Georges and that Mary was the next most popular name, followed by William and Elizabeth.
The graphs below show the names where there were more than one occurrence. I combined the variants of the names – these were more common among the females, in fact only Humphrey needed combining among the men. Some line only go back as far as the early 1800s and I have several cousin marriages in my direct lines, so only 430 names are represented here.
Although it can only be speculative, I did explore why the names might have appeared when they did. Some of my lines go back, tentatively, as far as the mid 1500s and the earliest male names to appear in the tree are Robert, Peter, Anthony, John and Richard, while their wives were named Ann, Joan and Alice. This fits with the name usage as described on Historic Names. Corinna, Barbary, Jessamine, Dawson, Edwin, Jessamine and Lancelot are unusual names which appear in the late 1700s/early 1800s. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth was most usual in the 1600s while my Georges and Williams began to appear in the latter part of the century.
I had a brief look at the geographical and religious significance of the names as well as when they were first used. The majority of my known ancestors are from England, with a smattering from Scotland. My only David came from Lanarkshire as did my Alexanders and all but one of my Catherines. Most of the less common names are from my paternal side which has roots in Sussex/Hampshire/Sussex as well as the Black Country and Scoltand.My mother’s side were from in and around the Cotswolds and the Chilterns. and had most of the Sarahs, Elizabeths and Anns. John and Mary were from both sides. Dawson seems to have come from Suffolk – he was illegitimate. Was this his father’s surname? Jessamine was from a large family in Surrey and her siblings had more “ordinary” names. Corinna was from Shropshire.
Although I have one known non-conformist family, they used common names for all their children. I have several people who have surnames as their second name, and this has helped me track lines back, but generally the surnames have been reserved for after the first name, apart from possibly Dawson..My Scottish families have used the traditional naming patterns sometimes, but were inconsistent.
These female names appear only once: Abigail, Molly, Deborah, Dorothy. Henrietta, Edith. Marjorie, Corinna, Barbary, Clase, Phoebe, Kathleen, Rosa, Lucy, Amy, Ursula, Jessamine, Agnes. Clase is probably a mistranscription, although she has been transcribed as Clase in two different parish registers. I do have a copy of her father’s will and though fairly illegible, it does look more likely to be Clara.
These male names appear only once: Samuel, Godfrey, Matthew, Jacob, David, Moses, Dawson, Edwin, Lancelot, Anthony, Laurence, Stephen, Levi, Henry, Luke, Abraham.
If you are interested in finding out more about names, their historical use, distribution and meanings, these are useful websites:
One piece of paper which Granny had tucked away, which we came across after her death, was an empty black edged envelope. It had been in my grandmother’s writing case with other seemingly insignificant bits of paper, some of which had been her mother’s.
Eleven at night was the start of a baker’s day, when he made the dough. He was able to sleep on the job for a couple of hours while the bread rose, then had to do the rest of the physical tasks of preparing rolls and loaves.
For this year’s favourite photograph, I have chosen the one I used as the heading picture for the blog section last year, but made no comment on it at the time. It features the same families as I described last year.
As a primary school teacher, I wonder how many times I have reminded my students that any piece of writing needs a beginning, a middle and an end.