|(picture by irishcentral.com)|
A few years ago I decided to trace the paternal side of the family name. Little did I know that two other family members were doing the same. They got a lot further than me but they kept me informed of discoveries. However, I use the word discoveries loosely since everyone came to a dead end. They were using the internet and everything was going well until the name disappeared. At the time I blamed the Net, little realising that our family name was non-existent before a certain decade.
Quite literally ... non-existent.
When investigation revealed that the name had a starting point but no history, my Aunt Florence claimed that she didn’t really know who she was. She wasn’t joking, either... deep down she was quite upset. Anyway, we got as far as tracing her aunt who, she already knew, had four children all with the family name as we know it now. However, the children’s mother never married and bore a completely different name to them.
Family members had their own ideas and came up with various invented stories of what happened. My favourite was that the relative in question was a lady’s maid who courted the son of the family she worked for.
Whoever the father was there was no record and he definitely did not bear the family name that we know. No, the name started with the four children, their mother having a completely different surname. Was it invented? I guess we’ll never know.
The more romantic of us dreamed up the tale that great-great-aunt courted a man who refused or was unable to marry the mother of his children. I visualise her waiting patiently while her lover lived the life of a toff, never letting on how he spent those furtive hours in the company of what would then be called a ‘slut’.
Perhaps he came from a wealthy family, with servants, one that looked down on relationships such as the one he entered and kept going for several years. Perhaps they were wealthy and of some standing in society. Think of the shame if they knew of their son’s behaviour and the fact that he had four bastard children. Perhaps they did know, perhaps his grandparents forbade marriage, threatening to cut him off from the family without funds to live on. What a tragedy that would be. But, no, my feeling is that the whole affair was kept secret in order that great-great aunt could continue working for the family. I mean, she did end up with four children needing to be clothed and fed.
Another suggestion was that he was a criminal but I didn’t go along with that idea. If that was the case it would be his name that needed to be changed, not his kids. The main question in my mind is: why not name the children after their mother?
I remember meeting my four great-aunts, very respectable, nice people who, like their mother, never married. I wonder why? How I would like to go back and question them but of course it’s too late. And to think this all came about because of a desire to trace ancestors, a task made more difficult because the name came out of nowhere and there’s nobody left to question.