Saturday, June 28, 2014

What's In A Name?

"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death, than the day of birth." Ecclesiastes 7:1

Last names, or surnames, are the basis for outlining one's family history. First, or given, names, especially when naming patterns were followed, can help us to fill in the contents of that outline.* However, even when this pattern was not followed, families often had a tendency to repeat the same given names. These names, especially when unusual, also help us to fill in the content of our outline.

Lily Agnes

Lily Agnes Drinkwater, 
One of my great grandmothers emigrated from Chester, England to the United States with her parents, Henry Charles and Emma Drinkwater, in the mid 1880's. She had an unusual and lyrical given name - Lily Agnes.

Lily's mother was Emma. Emma's mother was Hannah Alice Hall. But Hannah was never married to Emma's father. This, and the discrepancy in our records, have resulted in confusion in our family about his surname. On Emma's marriage certificate, her father is listed as Charles Edwards. But her obituary and death certificate state that she was Emma Baker Drinkwater. We didn't know whether he was Edwards or Baker. This confusion made it difficult to trace him, and so his family line ended with Emma.


One day a few months ago, while working on my Drinkwater family tree on the website ancestry dot com, I was presented with hints from another family tree, and I noticed the name Lily Agnes for two different people on this tree. Usually, I avoid hints from family trees because they may or may not be trustworthy. This time, my curiosity got the best of me.

Lily Agnes Harvey, 
I contacted the owner of the tree, telling her that the name Lily Agnes was so unusual that I felt that it was significant and must indicate a connection between us. She responded that Lily Agnes was the name of her grandmother, who was the daughter of Frederick John Harvey. And that she could provide me with information on the Harvey family. I eagerly accepted this offer because I knew that Hannah had married George Robert Harvey in 1862. I didn't know if they had any children, and I was curious to learn whether George's mother was named Lily, thinking that perhaps there was a naming pattern in the Harvey family, since I hadn't found one in Emma or Hannah's Hall family.

Lily Agnes Maguire,
As it turned out, the owner of the tree is Pat Evans, who lives in Wales. She and I are both descendants of Hannah Hall. And, her mother, Lily Agnes Maguire, was named after her grandmother. They were the two Lily's that prompted me to contact her.

From Pat I learned for the first time that Emma had an older brother, George Charles Edward Hall, also born before Hannah married George. And that they had seven half siblings, who were all the children of George and Hannah Harvey. That two of their sons, Emma's half brothers Frederick and William, named their oldest daughters Lily Agnes and Lily Agnes May. 

Hannah Alice Hall
Suddenly, I went from knowing of one Lily to learning that there were five Lily's in the Hall/Harvey family who were cousins** who shared an unusual name. I also learned that George's mother's name was Hannah as was his wife's, and not Lily. I still don't know why the family named so many of their daughters Lily, but, the name repetition I noticed led me to Pat, who sent me the information that allowed me to know who all of Hannah Harvey's children were and to fill in the content of my outline of the Hall/Harvey family tree. I went from thinking of Hannah as an unmarried "spinster" who gave birth to one child to knowing that she was the married mother of nine, who was widowed at the age of 45 while still having young children to care for.

Charles Edwards

Pat also shared enough information to confirm that George and Emma Hall's father was definitely named Charles Edwards. According to Emma's marriage certificate, his profession was baker. Pat sent me records showing that he was in a flour and baking business with his family whom I've been able to trace a couple of generations back. I also now know that he never married or had any other children.

When he died, in 1866, at age 32, he named his sister Catharine as his only heir, leaving her his estate of £100. It seems that he never acknowledged his two children and certainly didn't leave them money when he died. Family gossip says that he couldn't marry Hannah because he was connected with the Chester castle***. I now know that his only connection would have been to provide flour and baked goods to the castle, but I doubt that would give him a status that stopped the marriage. The informant for Emma's death certificate was her daughter Lily, who probably wrote her obituary also. We may never know why Lily said that Emma's maiden name was Baker, but I suspect that she saw no need to acknowledge her grandfather Charles, who didn't acknowledge his own children.


Pat told me that her given name is Patricia, as was my mother's. They didn't know each other, yet they were cousins who shared the same name. And, when Pat's daughter recently gave birth to a daughter, she named her Lily. A meaningful, though perhaps unintended, repetition of given names.


*For instance, it was once common in the British Isles for oldest sons to be named after their father's father, second sons to be named after their mother's father, oldest daughters to be named after their mother's mother, second daughters to be named after their father's mother and so on.

**Cousins named Lily:

  1. Lily Agnes Drinkwater, 1881-1964, daughter of Emma. Ellen's great grandmother, 
  2. Lily Agnes May Harvey, 1887-1973, daughter of William Walter, Emma's half brother. Mother of Lily Evans Saltuer 
  3. Lily Agnes Harvey, 1894-1922, daughter of Frederick John, Emma's half brother. Pat's grandmother  (these three were first or half-first cousins)
  4. Lily Agnes Maguire, 1915-1982, Pat's mother
  5. Lily Rose Harvey, 1922-, granddaughter of Frederick John, Emma's half brother.
***Sometimes interpreted that he was of the royalty.

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