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TIP EIGHT: With Gypsy names be prepared for unexpected forms.

Eric Trudgill    -    6 January 2012

Research Tips For Beginners In Gypsy Genealogy

Beginners won’t find tips here on finding research material: for that they can use the internet, join the Romany & Traveller FHS, and buy Sharon Floate’s excellent book, My Ancestors Were Gypsies. What they are offered here are tips on evaluating and interpreting the material they find.

TIP EIGHT: With Gypsy names be prepared for unexpected forms.

With forenames be prepared not only for standard gypsifications and gorjerfications, and standard modifications and alternates, but also for unexpected variants and unexpected, non-standard private alternates.

You shouldn’t be troubled by non-standard variants of, say, Nehemiah (Namiah/Miah/Miers/Mira/Jeremiah) or Cinderella (Sinderilla/Syndrelea/Cinderia/Sendrey). But you might take a while, as I did, to realize Gripy Smith, Nixey Lovell and Uriah Buckland were recorded respectively as Agrippina, Molyneux and Hughie. And you’ll certainly be troubled by non-standard private alternates, especially if you’re looking for forenames you’ve picked up from the gypsiologists.

The gypsiologists’Siterus, Abel and Anselo Boswell, for example, were always in official records Bartholomew, Clark and Joseph; their Elijah Boswell mostly used that name, but was Lazarus at his own baptism and at the birth-registration, baptism or marriage of five of his children; and their Taimi Boswell never used that name in the records but was Simeon, John or Joseph (his wives helpfully had striking, unchanged names, Delinda and Cashmere). Similarly Barthwell Smith was Barthwell when marrying Eleanor Smith in 1815 and christening their children, but he was clearly Matthew Smith when marrying Charlotte Gray in the same church in 1831, and used both forenames when christening the children of this new marriage. Lavinia Smith, wife of Old Dimiti Buckland, was usually Lavinia in the records, but also Tryphena when christening two of her children and when appearing with Dimiti in the census. And there are many more examples.

With surnames you shouldn’t be troubled by non-standard variants of Buckland (Bucklan/Buckler/Buckling etc) or Loveridge (Leveridge/Lovelidge/Loverageetc). But you may betroubled by unexpected variants based on social convention or personal preference. Children were often denied their father’s surname, given their mother’s when their parents weren’t legally married, or their step-father’s when she’d re-married: Buz Lock’s daughter, Elizabeth, was death-registeredas a “Ryles otherwise Huggins” after her mother, Caroline Ryles, and her common-law husband, Charles Huggins, and her children were birth-registered or baptized as Lock, Huggins, or sometimes Longwarne, the maiden name of Charles’ mother before she married his step-father, Joseph Huggins.

While some Gypsy men were denied their father’s surname, others were happy not to use it. Many took their wife’s maiden name, like on occasion Francis Brown, husband of Rosetta Smith, or Elijah Smith, husband of Margery Lock. Some took their mother’s maiden name, like Reuben Smith, son of Neptune, who was an Ayres after his mother when christening at least five of his children and appearing in the census. A few went even further back: Jubal Smith, whose father, Johnny Smith, went by his mother’s maiden name, was an Anchorn when he married and when he christened five of his children, after his paternal grandfather, William Anchorn; and some of Noah Lock’s sons passed as Boswells after their paternal grandmother, Remembrance Boswell. When researching a Gypsy family, it’s important to go sideways and backwards as well as forwards, identifying the wife’s grandparents as well as the husband’s, to be sure you spot the birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial of their children.

Copyright © 2012 Eric Trudgill