Saturday, 23 March 2019

Me, the Name I Call Myself

 Auntie Peg seated with her sister, May Catherine, behind her

When you were a child were all adults called Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Something? That form of address was expected then. My morning newspaper carried an article about Maya Angelou's lecture on respect when a young woman addressed her by her first name instead of the more formal, Miss Angelou. The event happened in 1989 but tweeting has brought it to the fore again and the quoted reactions in the article were still in favour of the use of the honorific Mr. or Miss.

While I still find it strange to be addressed as Mrs. Something, I'm not sure if I prefer it over my full first name, which I dislike. Let's face it, the use of names is fraught and and changed with custom both more or less than you would think. Names are also a genealogist's stock in trade. 

I was reminded how much we use and reuse names when trying to make sense of the generations that just opened up on one of my family lines. They were living in colonial times when the population was growing and large families were common, intermarriage was rife and there were not that many acceptable christian names. Besides, it was tradition to carry on first names in a family. This can be both a blessing and a curse for the genealogy researcher.

It is difficult to untangle families with common names and it sometimes happens that researchers go haring off down the wrong line because they pick the wrong person with the right name as their ancestor. That's the bad. 

What's good is if the use of a known naming pattern can confirm the relationships in a family. Use of the Scottish naming pattern helped to bridge a generation gap in my Islay family. A Google search for "naming patterns" shows that there are a few different naming patterns including a colonial American one. Ooh interesting, that's where new information just opened up on one of my lines. 

I'm not sure when naming patterns were no longer common. Perhaps when families got smaller? Patterns may no longer be used but the tradition of naming babies after relatives continues. This happened to me. I was named Margaret after my great aunt Peg which I find strange as it appears she didn't like the name she was given if she went by the diminutive, Peg. Why perpetuate a disliked name?

But then, the women in my family seemed to be a bit touchy about what they were called. My mother went by her middle name. I wonder if that was her decision or that of her mother. After all, it was her mother who actually got the authorities to go back to the official record of her birth and note her name down as the more formal, May Catherine, rather than the friendlier, Katie May. I wonder what she would say about recent family trees I've seen online which name her as Katie May.

Changing names make research more difficult. Perhaps at one time there was a story to go with the change, like the ones I know about my great aunt and grandmother. Unfortunately, many of those details have been lost to time the further back you go. It makes me wonder about whether name alteration goes way back as a family trait. As those touchy ladies were on my new-found colonial American line, that research many be even trickier than anticipated. 


Italie, Leanne. “Are honorifics for elders relevant? Twitter users tackle the question of when or if we should use first names for older people”. Friday March 22, 2019, Live It! The Province

Saturday, 16 March 2019

English Family Ties to Jersey

Engineers Barracks from Havre de Pas, Jersey 1809

Looking at maps, it seems odd that the Channel Islands are part of the UK. They are closer to France than to England and those same maps show more French place names than English. What I find even more surprising is that my English family has ties to Jersey.

In his later years, knowing my interest in family history, my father would sometimes reminisce about his WWII experiences. One of the things he talked about was how he was on Jersey when war was declared on Germany in 1939. He cut short his time on the island to get back to his home in London. I never clarified why he felt the need to get home or what he was doing in Jersey in the first place. Looking at the records, it seems he wanted to go home to enlist as he joined the RAF by November of that year. In any case, he was probably on the island for a vacation as it was a known resort before the war. WWII's beginning put paid to holidays and it wasn't long until Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans. 

But long before the German occupation of 1940, my mother's side of the family had more solid links with Jersey. I had been hunting for William and Eliza Chubb in the 1881 census and found an Eliza Chubb of the right age in St Helier, Jersey. She was listed as a widow born in England. It was tentative especially as she could have been born anywhere in the country but what had happened to William? Would I ever know? The newspaper article showing that my great grandparents, William Strange Chambers and Sarah Ann Conway Chubb, married in St Helier went a long way to confirming that I had the correct Eliza in the 1881 census. 

While the English census includes Jersey, the records of vital events are not held by the General Register Office in England. Some parish records for the Church of  England are available on the regular subscription sites but nothing for nonconformists. If there was one thing I was sure of, my Chubb family were nonconformists.

Looking for further information, I recently took a look at the Jersey Heritage site at  which has a link to the Jersey Archives. On the archive portion of the site, I was able to search for the name of William Chubb who must have died while he and Eliza were living in St Helier. A teaser of an entry came up for the death of a William Chubb that looked likely and also one for William John Stainer Chubb which was their son's name. I took out a subscription to the site and searched a bit further. Their helpful videos explained how to order vital records so it looks like I will finally be able to order my great grandparents' marriage certificate. I wonder what else I will be able to find? 

If you are looking for ancestors who disappeared in the mid-nineteenth century you might find that they moved to the Channel Islands. They were a popular place to move, particularly with people from Dorset. 


A Picture of Jersey; or, Stranger's Companion through that Island (1809), J. Stead - "Engineers Barracks from Havre de Pas"

By Man vyi - own photo of 19th century book illustration, Public Domain,