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Tee-Names

As a result of limited marriage opportunities in the small fishing villages of the north-east, each village had only a limited range of surnames, a situation that persists to some extent even today. Also, only a fairly small number of given names were in common use in any particular area.

The author of the New Statistical Account of 1845 for the parish of Gamrie, Banffshire describes a
"'system of clanship' among the fishing population in the villages: the most of whom in Crovie and Gardenstown are of the name of Watt or Wiseman, so that they are obliged to have recourse to nicknames for the sake of distinction. It is a rare thing for them to marry but among themselves, as the manners and habits as well as the work of the rural population are quite different from theirs".

To avoid difficulties in identifying people, surnames in the fishing villages were modified by the addition of nicknames, known generally as tee-names. These tee-names were appended to the surname and usually written in inverted commas. Tee-names are still in everyday use within these communities, and anyone with recent ancestors in these areas will be aware of them.

Town/Village Common Surnames
Pennan Galt
Rosehearty Ritchie
Sandhaven Mitchell, Sim
Broadsea Noble, Stephen
Inverallochy Strachan, Duthie
St Combs Buchan
Peterhead Buchan, Strachan, Stephen
Boddam Stephen
Port Errol Robertson
Aberdeen Baxter, Leiper

For genealogy, it is important to realise that tee-names were normally inherited like surnames; the father's tee-name was usually passed on to his sons and daughters.

Valuation Rolls from 1855 onwards usually include tee-names. Other official records such as Certificates and Census returns, only occasionally give tee-names. Parish Registers are poor sources, and gravestones often do not carry tee-names.

[Abridged from articles in Journal 70 of the Aberdeen & NE Scotland FHS]
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[Last updated: 7/07/04 - Dave Anderson]