I spent some time a few days ago writing about the Guild blog challenge and shared how my software is set up with different trees. The first post in the series is about rural settings and we, as genealogists should never underestimate the power of a rural setting.
I have often been frustrated by my English family surnames, with several surnames appearing more than once and initially, thought I was “unlucky”. When I sat back and looked at those surnames, I could see patterns of behaviour forming and realised it was not simply the case of brothers and sisters marrying brothers and sisters in a different family as had occurred in my own family from rural Surrey, here in England. It was simply something that had been occurring for generations. My maternal Grandparents families, were simply following the pattern, even if they did not know of a pattern in the first place.
Casting my mind back to when I first purchased a genealogical software programme, I sat and began inputting the data into the programme. I began with my maternal Grandparents and their respective siblings, followed by their offspring and the generation aligned with my own. Then things became a little tricky. Grandfather’s sister married Grandmother’s brother, then became even more tricky, when the same Grandmother’s brother married for the second time to the wife and widow of Grandfather’s brother. Mum’s cousin’s changed surnames from Matthews to Butcher. Then there was another child, from the remarriage of said widow. I was tired and I had barely gone back more than a generation. I expressed irritation and my Mum said, it is likely to get worse you know. When I looked at her and said how? She replied that I should not be surprised. I accepted the comment as just that.
I then began working on my Grandmother’s parents line and selected Grandmother’s uncle Alfred Elstone, and immediately wished I had selected another sibling, because he had married a Rose Butcher. Each time I encountered another of these marriages, I doubled checked my data, just to be sure. It went on and on like this for generations. Sitting back and looking at the family groups, the geographical spread, occupations and migration (both inside the UK and abroad) I knew it was going to continue like this. Within a relatively short time, I established that my maternal Grandparents were sixth cousins. Every hour of genealogy resulted in a headache and frustration. I looked at the geographical spread and noted that within a 300 year time frame, both the families of my maternal grandparents had not moved more than 30 miles (and that is being generous!). The only exception was my Grandmother’s father came from Warwickshire.
Quite without thinking, I began collecting the individuals with the surname of Butcher throughout Surrey and Sussex. At the time I was living in my native Surrey, I had good access to the parish records and so began a lot of piecemeal work as I located a family and followed them. This was the days before laptops were financially commonplace, instead, everything was written and at some point drawn into a family tree.
When I deliver the talk, Tracing European Ancestors, I always recommend researchers obtain a map. Whilst that sounds flippant, it is not intended that way. Look at where you people are and look at what is around them in their time period. It sounds common sense, and it is, but sometimes the most obvious can be overlooked and that can be costly. So in those early days, I began keeping lists, mainly of places and surnames, so I can easily identify a place as a melting pot of a particular surname, especially for places in the borders of Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire.
I had a few sticky moments, firstly involving the marriage of my 6th Great Grandfather, John Butcher to his wife Mary. He was illegitimate and was acknowledged by his father who went on and married his mother when he was six years old. I eventually located his marriage, not in Artington which is just outside of Guildford, Surrey, but in Arlington in Sussex.
The second sticking point was the birth place of my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Denyer who married James Elstone her birth was recorded in the Census in 1841 confirming she was born in the County (Hampshire). In 1851 and onwards, she advised that she was born in Bramshott or Liphook. Despite looking and looking (and looking….) she was not and no amount of my looking was going to magically make her birth appear in the parish records. Eventually, I located her birth in Lurgershall, West Sussex.
By the time I had married in the mid 1990’s I was keen to focus on my husband’s family. That would be easy, new territory in terms of geography. My in laws were able to produce some documents and photos of their ancestors. I was invigorated. I had been researching my husband’s family and came across the Goucher/Goacher cross over, The family were originally in Derbyshire, but by 1715 we had hopped over the Nottinghamshire border. I knew that I had come across the surname of Goacher previously and could not place where. I located the paper records of surnames in Surrey & Sussex and looked through to find the surname of Goacher and sure enough, came across the marriage of one of the children of the brother to Rose Butcher who married Alfred Elstone. I have put the lid on Pandora’s box, at least for now.
I so wish I could say that my paternal line is any better, but it is not and if anything, it is worse! In Sicily, women retain their birth name even after their marriage. Upon marriage in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, women tend to take their husband’s surname and if they subsequently remarry then we can likely find the second marriages. In Sicily things are further complicated when traditional naming patterns are used. I have one such marriage, except I cannot be 100% sure that the marriage is the second marriage of the widow of an Orlando male, or it is a coincidence and another with the same name or did the brother marry his brother’s widow?
A family of a 1000 people began with just one and that is so very true, and even more so when the families are residing within a few mile radius. The world was still round and still a challenging place to live when our ancestors were living, but if we focus on the elements of family we might be able to look at the families in a different light. Life was hard. It did not just revolve around going to work, but when market was, attending church and any events. Our ancestors likely met their spouses though family members, my Grandparents met because my Grandfather drank a swift half a pint in the pub where my Grandmother’s brothers drank. It is not a revolutionary way to meet a potential spouse, but probably typical of the times, in that instance, the 1930’s. Alternatively they knew people in common, in laws of in laws, attending the same church, working for neighbouring farmers. All very good reasons to think about when considering your ancestors.
Congratulations if you managed to read through to the end. I quite enjoyed recalling and pondering on those early marriages and research. Until next week.
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Julie – I observed long ago that in Ulster (about the acreage of Kent, smaller than the old 3-Riding Yorkshire) marriage partners were typically from less than a half-day’s walk away – pre-WW1. That was because the local -place and church were common meeting-places. You had to walk there and back in a short day. Exceptions called for explanation. How did granda find granny when they were brought up 50 miles of poor road apart? Not in same denomination. Most feasible answer was farmer granda rode his horse to a seasonal big cattle fair, staying 1 or 2 nights in a (temperance) hotel run by sisters of granny who popped in and caught his eye. So he bought some bullocks and got the heifer as a luckpenny. A
I think I might have given up in despair at ever being able to unravel all those complicated relationships
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As tempting as it was, that would have been accepting defeat! – Looking at it rationally I do not know why I was so surprised – in rural communities the marriage pool opportunities is less!