Category Archives: Baby Names

A Christmas Carrol(l) and Other Festive Names

This is my last post before Christmas, and I thought I better make it seasonal. After writing about my Christmas family name last year, Herod, today I had a quick look for any names with more pleasant connotations. A quick scan of General Register Office (GRO) birth indexes reveal the following selection: 

  • Christopher Tingle – mainly modern occurrences. But one dates from Q2 1847 Islington 
  • There are a handful of babies named Ivy Holly (surname). They include one from Q2 1891 Eastbourne; 
  • Christmas Holly Bell Jeffreys is registered in Q1 1910 Easthampstead. Only the initial “B” appears in the index. The 1911 census confirms this stood for “Bell”; 
  • Mistletoe Spencer was registered in Q1 1910 in Doncaster. Mistletoe has gained slightly in popularity in recent years; 
  • Holly Berry, Berry being the surname, is again more popular in the modern era. The earliest civil registration occurence is in Q1 1880 Barnstaple; 
  • Holly Lavinia S Bush was registered in Q2 1899 Southampton; 
  • Christmas Rose appears once, registered in Q1 1873 Maldon; 
  • Bethlehem Shepherd features in Q1 1865 Chesterfield. There was also a Harry Bethlehem Shepherd in Q4 1878 Sheffield; 
  • An unusual name, but Virgin Mary appears occasionally, including baby Cotton who was registered in Q4 1875 Stow; 
  • There are a host of babies named Harold Angel, including one registered in Q1 1903 Burton; 
  • There are a couple of Christmas Angels. Robert Christmas Angel’s birth was registered in Q1 1870 Yarmouth whilst William Christmas Angel features in Q1 1890 Flegg; 
  • Christmas Carroll is there once, registered in the St Saviour District, Q1 1892; 
  • Lillian Ruth Christmas Tree was registered in the Canterbury District in Q1 1903. The letter “C” appears in the index. Her baptism in January 1903 at St Stephen’s, Hackington confirms “C” stood for “Christmas”; 
  • There are a few babies named Xmas, including Nellie Xmas Pulleyn whose birth was registered in Q1 1869 in the Croydon District. A Xmas Hollingworth was registered in Q4 1871 Barton upon Irwell; 
  • Yule is there too, including Yule Mary Bedford registered in Q1 1909 Worcester; 
  • Weather-related ones also crop up. I particularly like Amelia Snow Manning, registered in the Spalding District in Q1 1883; 
  • On a weather theme, there are two Winter Frost babies. One in Q1 1859 Kidderminster. The other in Q1 1873 Aston; 
  • Finally no Christmas list would be complete without Santa Claus. In this case Santa Claus Losack whose birth was registered in Q1 1891 in the Holborn District of London. 

Many of our Christmas traditions originate from Victorian times, and this is when it really took off as the festival we recognise today. So it seems clear, with the dates in which the majority of birth registrations occured, that many of these babies were named with the time of year in mind.  

Photo by Jane Roberts

Anyway there’s only one thing I can end with saying to everyone: Mary Christmas, and there are many of them in the birth indexes. 

Sources:

  • GRO Indexes of Births
  • 1911 England Census 
  • Baptisms at Stephen’s, Hackington at Canterbury Cathedral Archives, reference  U3/39/1/5 (FMP

For my post about war-related babies names see Shrapnel and Shelletta

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My Bizarre Christmas-Associated Family Name: AKA There’s more to Family History than DNA

In “Shrapnel and Shelletta[1] I wrote about war-associated baby names. This is a more seasonal post about a particular Christmas-associated family name.

When naming a baby at Christmas-time, which names conjure up this magical time of year? Which can be considered as festive and beautiful as this special period? Holly, Ivy, Joy, Noel/le, Merry, Nick or Rudolph might spring to mind. Perhaps Caspar, Gabriel, Emmanuel, Balthasar and Gloria? Or maybe the Holy Family names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

In contrast, which name would make you recoil with shock and horror? Which name would you think “No way! How inappropriate! What on earth are they thinking of?”

Probably near the top of the list would be the one associated with my family tree.  For on 24 December 1826 at Kirkheaton’s St John the Baptist Parish Church (oh, the irony of date and church name)[2] the baptism of Herod Jennings took place.

Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières_vitrail1_837 Herod

Magi before Herod the Great, Wikimedia Creative Commons License, G Freihalter

Herod was born on 3 November 1826, one of five children of coal miner George Jennings and his wife Sarah Ellis. They married in October 1818 at St Mary’s, Mirfield and by the time of Herod’s baptism had settled in Hopton, a hamlet in that township, midway between Mirfield and Kirkheaton.

Herod’s siblings included the equally wonderfully named Israel (baptised 20 June 1824) and Lot (born 8 March 1830), so some fabulous biblical associations there too. The other family names of James (baptised 24 September 1820) and Ann (baptised 20 October 1822, buried 7 July 1823) seem disappointingly ordinary in comparison.

Sarah died in 1832, age 36 leaving George to bring up his four surviving children. James married Sarah Pickles on 25 December 1839, another example of Christmastime events in this branch of the Jennings family![3]So, by the time of the 1841 census, it was just George and his two sons, Israel and Herod, along with a female servant Jemima Gibson living in the Upper Moor, Hopton household. Youngest child Lot was along the road at Jack Royd, with the Peace family. This may have been a permanent arrangement given the family situation.

By the time of this census young Herod already worked down the mine, a job which ultimately would possibly contribute to his death.

On 7 October 1850 he married Ann Hallas at St Mary’s, Mirfield. Both Herod and Ann lived at Woods Row, Hopton. Ann was slightly older than Herod, being born in 1824. By the time of their wedding, she was already the unmarried mother of two. Her son, Henry, was born in 1843; and my 2x great grandmother Elizabeth’s birth occurred in November 1850, 11 months prior to Ann’s marriage to Herod.

This then is my family connection to Herod: His marriage to my 3x great grandmother. And it is one of the mysteries I still hope the DNA testing of mum and me will solve. Was Herod the father of Elizabeth? She was certainly brought up to think so, with all the censuses prior to her marriage recording her surname as Jennings, whereas her brother Henry went under his correct Hallas surname. And when registering the birth of her son Jonathan, there is a slip when Elizabeth starts entering her maiden name as “Jen”. This is subsequently scored through and correctly written as “Hallas”.

It appears Henry too was minded to look upon Herod as his father-figure. At his baptism at St Peter’s, Hartshead in June 1857 he appears in the register as Henry Jennings, not Hallas. When he married Hannah Hainsworth at Leeds All Saints on 24 December 1866, his marriage certificate records his father’s name as “Herod Hallas”. And in 1870 he named his eldest son Herod. Although by no means a common name, a glance at the GRO indexes shows it did appear occasionally, along with its alternative forms of Herodius and the feminine Herodia. The fact Henry gave his son this unusual name seems to indicate a measure of affection for the man who brought him up. Finally, at the time of the 1871 census Herod, son William and nephew Charles were boarding in the Leeds home of Henry.

So, whether or not there is a DNA link, he is still a major figure in my family tree. And for me this brings home the fact that there is more to family, and family history research, than DNA links alone!

Herod and Ann had nine other children: Ellen (born April 1851), Louisa (born January 1853), Harriet (born November 1854), Mary (born May 1858), William (born 1860), Eliza (born April 1862), Rose (born 1864), Violet (born 1866) and James (born 1871).

The family moved frequently, presumably due to Herod’s work as a coal miner. They are recorded at various locations in the area, many within walking distance of where I live. These included Mirfield, Battyeford, Hopton, Hartshead, Roberttown, White Lee and Batley.

Outside of work Herod had a keen interest in quoits, arranging and taking part in park challenge games especially around local Feast times. This game was particularly popular with miners and mining communities in Victorian times, with the metal rings being made of waste metal from mine forges. Challenge matches were also a way to raise funds, for example for sick and injured miners.

Herod died age 52, at Cross Bank, Batley as a result of asthma and bronchitis, which presumably owed something to his mining occupation. Working in cramped, filthy, air-polluted, damp, sometimes wet conditions from an early age, this was a hazardous and unhealthy occupation. The conditions and physical exertion led to chronic muscular-skeletal problems and back pain as well as rheumatism and joint inflammation. Most colliers had lung associated problems, with many becoming asthmatic whilst still relatively young. So Herod’s cause of death, from a lung-related illness, is unsurprising.

Ironically Herod’s date of death occurred on 5 January 1878, a day we associate with the Christmas period, falling before 12th night. And in the Western Christian tradition the 6 January is the Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. This brings us once more to the King Herod connection, at Herod Jennings’ death as well as his baptism.

This is what Matthew’s gospel says about those events at the first Christmas:

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem. ‘Go find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’  Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way. 

After they had left, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod……Herod was furious when he realised he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men”.[4]

Herod was buried in Batley Cemetery on 7 January 1878.

I have a great deal of affection for Herod, whether or not there is a direct family blood-tie. The fact he took on one, possibly two children when he married Ann; and they in turn acknowledged him as a father, which speaks volumes for him. I can relate to the location links. And I can totally sympathise with his asthma suffering.

This is my final family history blog post of 2015, and an apt one given the time of year. Thanks ever so much for reading them. As someone new to blogging your support, encouragement and feedback has meant so much over the past eight months.

Merry Christmas everyone – wishing you all peace, health and happiness for 2016!

Sources:

[1] Shrapnel and Shelletta: Baby Names and their Links to War, Remembrance and Commemoration | PastToPresentGenealogy https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/shrapnel-and-shelletta-baby-names-and-their-links-to-war-remembrance-and-commemoration/
[2] Herod the Great was responsible for trying to elicit the three wise men to reveal the  whereabouts of Jesus and, when this failed, subsequently ordering the killing of all infant boys under the age two and under, the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents”. His son, Herod Antipas, had John the Baptist killed.
[3] It was not uncommon for working-class people to have wedding ceremonies on Christmas Day. It was, after all, a holiday so they had time off work.
[4] The Jerusalem Bible, Popular Edition 1974 – Matthew 2: 7-17

Shrapnel and Shelletta: Baby Names and their Links to War, Remembrance and Commemoration

In these weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts turned to some research I first undertook in 2011 around baby names. In particular the commemoration aspect behind some name choices, especially in times of conflict. Name choices which went beyond bestowing a “conventional” Christian name on a baby in honour of, or affection for, a relative or friend, living or dead.

Unusually this train of thought was prompted by the 16 December 1914 German naval bombardment of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby. This had an unexpected impact on my West Yorkshire family history. In the course of researching this event I discovered a snippet in the “Batley News” of 9 January 1915 which captured my attention. It recorded the birth of a baby girl in Hartlepool. Her unusual name commemorated the momentous events occurring locally and wider afield at the time of her birth: Shelletta Louvain.

Shelletta is clearly a reference to the events in Hartlepool; Louvain is presumably a mark of respect and signifying a shared experience with Belgian city of Louvain destroyed by the German Army in August 1914. GRO records show the birth of a “Shelletta L Liddle” in the Hartlepool Registration District in Q1 of 1915.

Commenting on the child’s name, the “Wells Journal” asked its readers to “…. think of the poor fate of the poor Hartlepool girl …born to the accompaniment of shell fire, who has been condemned by her parents to go through live bearing the burden of the name Shelletta Louvain!

Shelletta 3

The same paper recorded a Whitby child born during the bombardment of that town, named George Shrapnel Griffin. Other papers quipped if the child had been a girl they could have christened her Shrapnelly. George was, according to the “Whitby Gazette” born at the precise moment the first shell burst over the town! His birth elicited a letter to the family containing the King’s best wishes.

Baby George Shrapnel Griffin with his proud parents Mr and Mrs Edward Griffin

Baby George Shrapnel Griffin with his proud parents Mr and Mrs Edward Griffin

This chance find of a couple of event/place associated names prompted a search into similarly World War One associated Christian names in England and Wales. Using FreeBMD[1], this resulted in the following:

Baby's Names Table 1b

Notes:
1 = I have taken the total from FreeBMD, unadjusted for duplicates.
2 = Includes an Arrasy and Arrasina
3 = Some of the children named Delville had middle names starting with the initial “W” which may possibly have been for “Wood”, one child in 1918 had the Christian name “Delvillewood”.
4 = Includes Joffrena, Joffrene, Joffreen, Joffrench, Joffree, Joffrein and Joffrey.
5 = Battle was called Neuve-Chapelle. Four out of the six children had middle names starting with the letter C.
6 = Includes a Sommeria
7 = Includes an Armisticia

I discovered a sprinkling of children named Belgium and France and even a Poperinghe if I widened my search dates to 1920.

So there is a mixture of battle, personality and event associated names. Verdun, more usually linked with French losses, is surprisingly an overwhelmingly popular choice for both male and female babies. Dorrien, in honour of General Smith-Dorrien and a name I did not analyse in detail, proved popular in the early part of the war.

There will be far more examples. And my search does not include middle names, such as the one given to baby George Griffin. Incidentally no child was given the Christian name of Shrapnel, in my FreeBMD search.

No major surprise, but the registration quarters for these war-linked names mainly coincide with the dates of the various battles/events. For example the children named Antwerp were registered in Q4 1914, and Q1 and Q2 of 1915. This is consistent with the early October 1914 timing of the Defence of Antwerp by the British Royal Naval Division and Rawlinson’s IV Corps.  And Q2 1915 was the peak quarter for the registration of children named Luisitania, coinciding with the sinking of that ship on 7 May 1915.

It would be interesting to investigate if the Registration Districts in which these events were recorded correspond with the areas where the various battalions fought, especially pre-1917 when they had a more “local” affinity.  Also to know why parents chose these names for their children: Was it patriotism? Defiance? Or was it to commemorate a significant event at the time of the child’s birth, as in the case of Shelletta and George Shrapnel? Was it in honour and remembrance of the battle in which a husband or family member lost their life? Or more generally in recognition of where a husband fought? And did these names prove, as suggested in the “Wells Journal“, a burden in later life?

Incidentally the explanation for George’s name, as indicated in the “Whitby Gazette“, was: “George, after that of the King, in whose glorious reign England is rendering her greatest of many services to humanity by crushing Prussian militarism, and Shrapnel, as commemorating the German attack on our undefended town, so dear to all Yorkshire folk, and so famous in its history“. Sadly George never survived infancy to find out whether his name was to prove a burden or otherwise.  According to the same newspaper he died on 23 May 1915.

George Griffin The Cragg

The naming of children after battles and events associated with war is not peculiar to the First World War. Looking at names given to babies during the period of the 2nd Boer War, October 1899-May 1902, I identified the following:

Baby's Names Table 2

Notes:
1 = I have taken the total from FreeBMD, unadjusted for duplicates
2 = Includes a Kimberley Mafeking
3 = Magersfontein Paardeberg

Going back even further to the Crimean War, Inkerman first made an appearance in 1855 and also in subsequent years, proving extremely popular. Crimea, Balaclava and even a Sevastopol occur in the GRO indexes.

So baby names can provide a link to historical events at the time of birth, and another research angle.

If anyone has any of these names, or names of similar war-related origins, I would love to know!

Sources:

  • FreeBMD: http://www.freebmd.org.uk/
  • “Batley News” – 9 January 1915
  • “Wells Journal” – 8 January 1915
  • “Whitby Gazette” – 8 January 1915 and 28 May 1915

[1] Research originally conducted in July 2011 and updated in January-February 2015