|Laughing fool, c 1500 (via Wikimedia)|
I've started researching my father's grandmother's family, who lived in the same area of West Wales for - well, if you believe old family stories, many centuries. I've been looking for great-grandmother Sarah Davies, born in Llandyssilio[gogo], Cardiganshire, between 1853 - 56. And I thought I'd found her in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 Wales censuses. In 1881 this Sarah was living in an old farmhouse that's been in the family for generations. Right name, right age, right birthplace, right-looking address.
Wrong Sarah. I found her in the same house in 1891, but with the married surname James. 'My' Sarah had married Rhys Lloyd of Llandyssil/Llandysul before then.
We can all follow false trails. It's so easy to be fooled by the 'right' details. The fact that my ancestors were unadventurous in their naming doesn't help. Half my foremothers were called Sarah or Elizabeth, and a lot of the men were Thomases. And of course finding a married woman's maiden name can just complicate things even more. Poor Sarah has gone back into my 'to do' file, and I'm picking myself up, dusting my research off, and starting all over again.
There's an up-side, though, with names and false trails. I'm guessing that if you've looked at online family trees which have your own ancestors in them, you'll have found some cuckoos in the nest. A John Jones married 10 years after he was buried, perhaps, or a Jane Smith who emigrated in 1865 when records show she never moved from her Scottish birthplace. They're in your family's tree, but they don't belong there - and you have the documentary proof.
I've got my own cuckoos in the family nests. For instance, my 3xgreat-grandfather, Nicholas Delaney - the one who got me interested in genealogy - was transported from Ireland to Australia in 1802, and married Elizabeth Bayly (Bayley, Bailey) in 1808.
|Reed warbler feeding cuckoo (Wikimedia)|
So in this case the name is a hint that you need to look very closely at the proof for this claimed 'relative' - which Worldwide Genealogists would do anyway, of course!
When I start searching for great-grandmother Sarah Davies again, I plan to use names as clues. I've said that my lot were all very traditional in the forenames they chose, so maybe they followed traditional naming patterns, at least for the first few children (many of them had traditional large families, too).
In many parts of the UK, couples would use this pattern, strictly or loosely, until the later 19th century:
1st son - named after the father's father
2nd son - mother's father
3rd son - father
4th son - father's eldest brother
1st daughter - named after the mother's mother
2nd daughter - father's mother
3rd daughter - mother
4th daughter - mother's eldest sister
Of course, it's never that simple in real life. Some people used variations on this pattern. Some only followed it for the first few children. Some didn't use it at all. Parents who were firstborns could choose another sibling's name for baby number four. Children could be named after other relatives, a powerful local family, royals, role models or political figures. And if someone had fallen out with a parent or sibling they might well not want to name their baby after its spiteful granny or criminal uncle.
Still, I'm glad of any clues which might help me track down those elusive ancestors hiding away in the records.
I'm looking at you, Sarah.
Apologies to all my fellow Worldwide Genealogy bloggers - in its wisdom Blogger/Blogspot has decided not to let me make comments once again. I thought I'd sorted out the glitches! (Sigh...) So I just wanted to let you know that I'm enjoying your writing and all the inspiring ideas and information. And please do comment on this post. I'd love to hear from you - I just won't be able to chat!