Friends

04 October 2015

TRACING THE FAMILY NAME

(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. 
(picture by www.ooh-er.com)
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. 

13 comments:

L. D. said...

I find that to be so interesting. It is amazing what could have happened and perhaps something somewhere will give you a new clue. My last name does follow back to Prussia, but then it also stops. As the country was destroyed a few times in history and I wonder if any family member has been recorded. No European connection happens after my great great grandfather. He had two wives with lots of kids with each but all migrated to the United States. One would think that great great grandfather would have left some relative behind somewhere. I hope someday one of you will find some discovery that will send you off to a new lead. I would love to hear about it.

Akelamalu said...

Geneology is so interesting. MWM has been tracing his family, Maternal and Paternal, for years. With the help of Ancestry.com he has traced his Maternal side back to 1490 and Paternal 1585! It certainly throws up some anomolies, he has one ancestor who spent some time in prison but we can't find out what for. We actually went to the National Archives in Kew and spent two days looking through records to no avail.

kden said...

I love all the ancestry shows and have wanted to take the task on. There are just so many variables like you describe that I'm afraid I would run into dead ends before I found the light at the end of the tunnel. I admire those that can do this.

DeniseinVA said...

That is fascinating Valerie. Having started our own family tree journey it has presented a few questions for us too.

Valerie said...

Larry, I'm glad you found it interesting, although it can be a frustrating exercise .. as you confirmed. I'm afraid curiosity can be a pain if we can't find the right paths to follow.

Valerie said...

Pearl, MWM must be a very patient man. Good luck to him. Someone told me that there was a murderer in my family but I think that might have been a joke.

Valerie said...

Denise, I wish you luck with your searches into the great mysterious past.

Valerie said...

kden, I too admire those who have the strength to persevere. I decided way back to use my imagination about family, the picture could be better that way... smiles.

troutbirder said...

The conundrums and often turn up for aspiring genealogists to deal with are often quite amazing!

A Cuban In London said...

Fascinating post. I have been researching my family history a bit. Found out that I have Spanish, Chinese and, of course, African blood. :-)

Greetings from London.

Mr. Shife said...

Cool stuff, Val. I want to dig into my family history some day mostly to learn if my last name was spelled differently or got altered when relatives came to America. There's a version of Shifley spelled Scheifele and I wonder if originally my name was that crazy. Take care.

Jenny Woolf said...

My great grandmother was adopted, it seems pretty informally, and there is no record of her family name Still, there are plenty of other relatives, I guess. Trouble is I would rather like to know about her, she seemed to be very interesting!

Valerie said...

Jenny, the mysterious ones are those we want to trace most.