I have not written about given names or middle names previously, but often these can provide insight into the history of a family or perhaps the links to family and, or friends.
Many of us have middle names, given to us by our parents. Some have middle names that have been passed down the years and generations, others have names that is a nod to family members or other significant individuals within our families. Others have middle names, that gives us a clue to other individuals.
Here are a few examples:
Acknowledging Family Members – My maternal grandmother had the middle name of Edith. She always knew that was a link to her father’s sister, Edith Annie Matthews. Edith was born in 1877 in Rugby Warwickshire. She married in 1902 to Charles Jelley in Guildford Surrey. Edith and Charles moved from Guildford to Reigate and had two children. By 1916 the Country was at war and the family had moved from Surrey to Paddington in London. Charles had returned to military service, having served during the Boer War, and as I looked through his service record I spotted a birth certificate to a further child, born in 1916 and who sadly died aged 6 months old. Charles returned home having survived the war. Edith died in 1921 aged 44 years. She had outlived her mother by just three years. What is curious, is that my Grandmother was born in 1912, yet she never met her aunt.
Illegitimacy – In past times there was a formal process to hold father’s to account for their children who were born to women that they were not married too. In this example, Hannah Butcher of the parish of Fakenham Magna in Suffolk has cited the father of her illegitimate child, to be John Howes, gardener of the parish, and as such Howes was required to be apprehended. The Bastardy Bond was dated December 1805. The child was baptised John Howes Butcher. After the baptism, John Howes Butcher dropped the use of Howes and continued to be known as John Butcher. Both the surnames of Butcher and Howes are registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies, Butcher by myself and Howes by Paul Howes. You can view the website for the Howes study HERE.
Family Connections – As I worked on my own family history, I established a connection to Sir John Bowring. Sir John had 9 children, one of whom, was given the name of Lewin Bentham Bowring. Sir John explained in his autobiography that the middle name of Bentham was given to Lewin in recognition of his relationship with Jeremy Bentham who was Lewin’s Godfather. Jeremy Bentham was a philosopher and social reformer and was regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.
Final Words – Middle names that are surnames, provide opportunity for us to explore where that surname links into the families. It is not an except science, but worthy of exploration.
My late mum had a middle name, on the face of it, it was nothing special – the middle name was Joyce, however the name was given to Mum in recognition of the love and respect that my Grandparents felt to someone who was an evacuee during the Second World War. I grew up knowing Joyce and her family. I have talked about the relationship between Joyce and our family previously.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be that, behind each middle name (and perhaps given name) is a backstory. The linking of one individual to another, whether that is through blood or love. Each one, worthy of exploration.