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Christmas Family of Bideford

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VI, (January 1910 to October 1911), p. 175.


W.R. Prior

Prepared by Michael Steer

Christmas is a reasonably uncommon surname, sometimes said to have been a byname given to a person born at Christmas. However, others dispute this interpretation. Several hundred years ago, the English language had loose system of spelling rules. When literacy was still uncommon, spelling variations are often found in names of Anglo-Saxon origin that are transcribed based. Words were transcribed using their pronunciation when names are listed in public records. The byname was spelled "Cristemass" in 1185 and 1191, and "Cristesmesse" in 1308. The name is principally found in Essex and Sussex counties in England where records suggest they held a family seat from ancient times. At least fifty (50) women called Mary have married a man with the surname over the past 170 years to become Mary Christmas. In December 2012, Mrs. Mary Christmas from Hull, England was featured online as a woman with a year-round Yuletide spirit. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 165. CHRISTMAS FAMILY OF BIDEFORD. - The following appeared in N. & Q. for July 9th, 1910, p. 28, and is here reproduced:-  "Did any of that family, hailing from Waterford, own land or live near Bideford, in Devon, in the eighteenth century? A certain John Christmas is stated to have been born there in 1757 or 1759, and when settling in Denmark in 1790 he obtained royal licence from the Heralds' College to use the name - and arms - of Christmas as his surname instead of Smith, Christmas being presumably the name of his mother. His descendants are still settled in Denmark."                W. R. Prior.