Personal Names in Devon: Family Names as Middle Names


Arthur French

When I was teaching in America I knew a student called Margaret EATON. She married Roy WATTS, and from that time she called herself Margaret Eaton WATTS. Her middle name was her maiden name. If you knew people like that, and you started researching Devon families, you might jump to some wrong conclusions!

In Kingsbridge in 1870 there was a solicitor's wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Fairweather DAVIES. Her maiden name was not FAIRWEATHER, but ADAMS. FAIRWEATHER was the maiden name of her mother, Mary Dorothy ADAMS née FAIRWEATHER, and she herself had been baptised Elizabeth Fairweather ADAMS in Malborough in 1842. If you find a 'surname' used as a middle name, it may be the mother's maiden name. This applies to males as well as females: Andrew Lidstone ADAMS, born in Slapton in 1802, was the son of Richard ADAMS and his wife Jenny née LIDSTONE. But you cannot be certain that the name came into the family just one generation back.

Richard BALKWILL, of Yarde, Malborough, married Elizabeth HANCOCK in 1804. Three of his eight children used Hancock as a middle name. One of the sons, another Richard, called his eldest son Richard Adams BALKWILL (after his wife Elizabeth ADAMS), and his second son Robert Hancock BALKWILL. There's another grandchild with 'Hancock', but the name didn't survive into the next generation.

I know of one family where the great-grandchildren kept the name going. George BOWHAY married Mary BROOKING in Blackawton in 1837. A son, John Elliott Brooking BOWHAY was born in Sherford about 1839. (And where did 'Elliott' come from? I don't know, yet!) He married Rebecca ELLIS in Blackawton in 1863, and all their children had Brooking as a middle name. The eldest, Charles Fred Brooking BOWHAY, called all ten of his children Brooking BOWHAY. It had almost become a 'double-barrelled' name. But I am tempted to suggest that it's usually 'big guns' that have 'double-barrelled' names with hyphens! There are certainly cases where gentry have adopted such a name in adult life in acknowledgement of a substantial inheritance from a relative with a different surname.

I recently came across the adoption of a middle name where there was, apparently, no blood relationship. John Gifford CROKER was a doctor who lived in Bovey Tracey. His family had held land in Ipplepen for over a century, and there was a family tomb there. In the mid-19th century John G CROKER had a farmer friend in Ipplepen, Robert MADDICOTT. John sold Robert his land, presumably on rather generous terms, and Robert called his next child Robert Croker MADDICOTT. When the child grew up his father built him a house on the Croker land, which Robert junior farmed until he retired. It is now a housing estate called Croker's Way!

So, a family name as middle name may suggest the mother's family, but that's only the most likely of several possibilities. There is usually some ancestral relationship, but don't bank on it! In the west country it is most unlikely to be a married woman's own maiden name.

Brian Randell, 9 Nov 1999