4: Tracing your Scottish ancestors, Payneham
Library, 6:30 to 8:30pm
7: Getting started in family history, Stirling
22: Identifying and dating old photographs Mt Gambier
the Past Event Mt Gambier
22: SA's major archives for family historians 2:25–3:25pm
the Past Event Mt Gambier
27: Introduction to FH research (over 7 weeks with
sessions of 1.5 hrs each) 8:00–9:30pm WEA
30: Practical Genealogy for Family Historians Session
1: Accessing the primary research stream—the family 10:15am–4:45pm
State Library for Flinders
13: Practical Genealogy for Family Historians Session
2: Accessing the secondary research stream—the paper trail 10:15am–4:45pm
State Library for Flinders
27: Practical Genealogy for Family Historians Session
3: Interpreting the record 10:15am–4:45pm State Library for
See the seminar program
for more details and bookings.
Unlock the past Expo
Readers in the SE part of SA and western VIC should note that Unlock
the past is conducting a seminar at Mt Gambier 22/23 July. A
strong program of speakers supported by a range of exhibitors including
the NLA, GSV, SEFHG, ScotlandsPeople and FamilySearch
has been developed and full details can be seen at their website.
It is important that regions support such enterprises to encourage
more of them!
Unlock the past Expo
Glandore SA 5037
Tel: +61 8 8371 4465
• Drafting charts
• Locating documents
• Seminar presentations
• Writing & publishing
• SA lookup service
• Ship paintings
Adelaide Proformat uses
Genealogist - for UK census, BMD indexes and more online simply because it contains quality data checked by experts.
Proformat News acknowledges the support by
names at onlinenames.net.au
In 1997 Adelaide Proformat established a free web site called
Online surnames that was designed to assist family historians
link with others interested in the same surnames in the same location.
Since then many hundreds of emails have been received from happy researchers
making links. In this new century we have seen the rise of pay-to-use
web sites, some of which operate a similar process and as a result
Online surnames has seen a decline from over 300 postings
a week to about 50.
[Ed: this site closed down 2015 and the information pages relocated to the Adelaide Proformat site.]
Adelaide Proformat has mulled over this dilemma for a couple
of years trying to decide whether to discontinue the program and close
it down. It seems rather strange that the general public would opt
for a pay-to-use web site over a free site. Why would people surrender
their material to a site that requires others to pay a fee to access
it? This year a decision was taken and it was resolved to not only
retain Online surnames but to spend some funds to revamp
the site and make it much less clunky than it was and enhance the
search engine. To support the new site and its operational costs a
concession has been made and the site now has Google Ads
The site previously covered Great Britain and Ireland and the main
countries that received emigrants from these places, namely, Australia,
Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, United States and Zimbabwe. The
new site allows postings from any country. Persons wanting to add
a country to the list can simply do so! The site also accepts world-wide
searches at the request of one-name researchers.
The site is now instantaneous with new postings going online immediately
rather than waiting a week for a moderator to check. Another new feature
is the ability to see every posting for a surname across all countries
as well as undertaking a specific search.
A guide page also assists researcher to determine the changes in boundaries,
recognise variants and similar issues that researchers come across.
This section is very much a work in progress and currently has some
brief notes on Australasia and the United Kingdom and Ireland.
We hope you and your associates will soon avail yourself of the service
because the success of such a web site improves with the number of
postings. The more postings, the more likely visitors will get a positive
The processes leading to the revamped website have rekindled my interests
in surnames and their evolution and you are referred to two earlier
newsletters on the subject. Nos 21
What's in a surname and 35
This time I intend to address the issue of spelling variants we find
in surnames and attempt to explain why some may have come about. There
is some overlap in this article with that in Newsletter
There is no doubt that some variants came about as the result action
by the owners of the name while others were enforced by outsiders.
The latter being more popular in the past when some people lost their
name simply because they were illiterate. Clearly the former process
has become more popular in modern times with individuals rejecting
At school there was a teacher we called sheep’s bum.
Mrs Ramsbottom did not deserve this treatment, but how could an immature
school boy resist. Surnames with the suffix, bottom were
still quite common in the 1940s and 1950s, but such surnames are few
and far between today. Originally when surnames were being adopted,
bottom referred to a valley and hence rams bottom or valley
of the ram (where ram is in fact garlic) is a locational
surname and certainly not a derogatory one. In this case even an English
town scored the name. Many Ramsbottoms have metamorphosed into Ramsbotham,
Ramsbottam and Ramsbotton. Some families named Bottom are now Botham.
Shufflebottom and Longbottom are also in demise. Shufflebottom, also
recorded as Shovelbottom, Shipperbottom, Shoebottom, Shoebotham, Shubotham
and so on, another location name referring to a spring in a valley
used as a sheep wash!
The writer once worked with a married lady named Cox who actually
married a Mr Cock but just could not handle the vulgar connotations!
The 1881 English/Welsh census listed more than 3000 Cocks but today
records reveal less than 800 in the same region. Balls is going into
extinction too as are Death, Daft and Smellie. Death has a multitude
of origin explanations, one of which is locational French for a person
from Ath in Flanders—de Arth, d’Ath, and so on. Ball/s
originally a Viking given name, daft originally meant meek and Smellie
is a Scots name correctly pronounced Smiley and indeed many of today’s
Smileys have Smellie ancestors.
The irony is that some families unknowingly bear equally undesirable
names—Prettyman can mean sly and conniving and Samways can mean
foolish. While Messrs Asse, Bungler, Crapper, Hagg, Pighead, Rottengoose,
Sillicow, and Vile may have long disposed of their names, the Kennedys,
Celtic for Ugly Head and the Camerons, Gaelic for Crooked Nose have
Often families seek to improve their image by refining their far too
common name. Changing ‘i’ to ‘y’
as in Smyth and adding an 'e' gains a level of sophistication
as in Browne, Cooke, Brooke and so on. Retaining an old form of handwriting
or version like, Ffoulkes and Ffrench which demonstrate a misinterpreation
of the old form of uppercase ‘F’ that looked
a little like ‘ff’ or Foord, an antique spelling
format for Ford are encouraged as they drag a common name well out
from the crowd.
The survival of one’s name could be subject to others. A number
of these result from the holder of the name moving away from the area
where the spelling was understood regardless of the local pronunciation.
There are numerous such words and suffixes in English. How is Scottish
name, Cockburn pronounced? Perhaps the variant spelling, Coburn, suggests
the pronunciation? In a reversal the name Marjoribanks owes its origin
to the name Marchbanks and indeed retains the old form when it comes
Counterintuitive pronunciation can be far more subtle and result in
the addition or loss of letters with names. Vowels can be readily
swapped. Letter combinations with a level of pronunciation difficulty,
some weak sounding consonants and vowels can encourage the loss of
letters or the addition of supporting letters. Hemswell is usually
now spelt Hempswell. Owle has metamorphosed into Howle and on to Howell.
The change of ‘l’ to ‘n’
is common in Devon. Weaker letters can also be subjected to transposition
as in Hagler and Halger.
The fact that English produces sounds using differing letter combinations
has to be considered. Knight and Night demonstrate the silent letter
issue where we produce names with different meanings and spelling
but the same sound. When your illiterate ancestor approached a scribe
and gave his name, the scribe decided on the spelling without thought
of the meaning or origin. Your Knight ancestors probably went through
life gaining and losing their ‘K’ at the whim
of others! Silent letters are not the only culprits and indeed many
of today’s silent letters were anciently pronounced. ‘C’
and ‘k’ are good examples as in Loket and Locket,
sometimes (see following paragraph) the diminutive form for Luke as
are Lucas, Luck, Look, Luckett, Lucock and Lukin. Kristen / Kristien
and Christen / Crestien also demonstrate the same common issue but
the matter is not restricted to ‘c’ and ‘k’.
It is always appropriate to qualify this material because inevitably
one will come across differing origins of names and Lockett or Lockitt
is just an example according to recent research of one such family
from Ashill NFK where the local Lockett / Lockitts became Lockwood
in the 1870s as demonstrated in the local church registers. Why this
happened is not known. (Holmes & McCabe; Improving precision and
recall for Soundex retrieval in Information Technology: International
conference on coding and computing, 2002. Proceedings. ISBN:
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