Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reaching deep into the past... and aliases, and Latin. I found a Randolphus! And Edwardus!

Frosty sheep in a frosty field - geograph.org.uk - 332840.jpg
Kirby Bellars field by Andrew Tatlow, CC BY-SA 2.0Link
Even though the Toon family line has proven, so far, to be the easiest to trace--they were prolific, and they were very good at registering births, baptizing children, and staying in a very constrained area of Leicestershire--there's a point at which it seems impossible to dig further into the past.

Christopher Toon, my 8th great-grandfather, who married Ana in Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire, England, on 25th November, 1621, is my best example of the historical "brick wall". He and Ana raised a small family in Rotherby: four boys and a girl, before Christopher passed away aged 31. He was buried the same day as his infant daughter Anne (or Anna?) was baptised. Christopher's decendant Toons spent several generations in and near Rotherby, Hoby and then Syston and Asfordby, all within walking or horse-cart distance of Kirby Bellars.

I call him "Christopher", because that's what other researchers have called him, and in the Rotherby records for the birth of his children, it's abbreviated to "Chris". However, the parish record that appears to be for Christopher's marriage names him Xpotferus, or Xpoferus, depending on who did the transcribing... what do you think?

All the names in the Kirby Bellars' parish records for this time are written in a sort of Latin, often with English names made to sound latin by the addition of "-us", for example, "Josephus" and "Edwardus" and "Randolphus". I assume this was for the purpose of the church records only and not that the entire village of Kirby Bellars spoke Latin every day!

Here we have the burial and baptism record, from Rotherby, which is just over three miles from Kirby Bellars. The vicar in Rotherby wrote in plain English, making it easier to understand:

Now I'm stuck at Christopher; haven't yet found any record of his birth, and the parish records from before 1600 are difficult to read, hard to find, or simply don't exist. Even though my earliest family history research began with the Toons, I have made very little progress with Christopher in many years.

Until now.

I decided to instead take another look at Christopher's wife, Ana (Anna? Anne?). She only appears on the marriage record, not in the baptisms of their children, and she has an unusual surname:

"Ana Steele alias Kitchen". What the heck sort of name is that? Why an alias? Was she hiding from someone, and the vicar found it out, and wrote it into the marriage record? (Probably not.) Was she the child of a marriage where the mother remarried, and Ana then carried both her natural father's name and that of her stepfather? (Maybe.) Was it something else entirely? (It's possible.) It seems that "alias" was used in a slightly different way around 1600 than it is today. Don't think Alias Smith And Jones: instead think "otherwise" or "in another time"... or simply, "we want to remember this name". And remember that the vicarus in Kirby Bellarsus was a Latin freak.

Here's an essay about the use of aliases in the UK. It gives five situations in which name-alias-secondname might have been used:
  • Retention of a patronymic, for example to keep grandad's name going
  • Retention of a topographical reference point
  • Commemoration of an ancestor's marriage into a family of good social standing
  • Illegitimacy, where the last part of the name is the unmarried mother's name
  • Other reasons such as inheritance.
Because 'Steele alias Kitchen" couples two names that are not so common--though it brings to mind sharpened knives and a roasted ox--and because now we have access to more records online, I recently started to search further into Ana's history. And found not just Ana, but potentially a whole family of "Steele alias Kitchen" folks.

Some of them are Steele alias Kitchen, then just Steele, or have been transcribed from the same record in multiple ways, depending on who did the transcribing, and what they saw. Most are in Kirby Bellars with the same Latin flourishes to their names, with a few marriages in other parishes a very few miles of Kirby Bellars. Most fit within the typical years of a marriage's childbearing years (apart from a couple of grandchildren). So... given the rather special name, it's possible, and even likely, that these are all Ana's siblings: Richard, Roger, Nicholas, Randolph, Dorothy, and John. With or without a Latin flourish to their names.

I have added all this to my tree on Ancestry.com, together with plenty of CAUTION notes: while the marriages and occasional baptisms are documented, parents' names were not recorded for the marriages, nor mothers' names for the baptisms. This is speculation, based on available knowledge; this is an educated guess. Please, feel free, to knock holes in this logic: it's how we improve our information.

The name Kitchen is written in many ways in the records and their transcripts: Kitchen, Kytchyn,
Kitching, Orkitchin (as "Steel Orkitchin"). Sometimes it's written Kitchen or Steele, rather than Steele or Kitchen. I'll be adding more people to this branch of the tree as I find them.

I will return to the Toons again very soon: for Annie Toon nee Cook's story, and to see if any of you can confirm the parents of Thomas Toon, born in Syston in 1731, died in Syston in 1774, my 4th great grandfather, who I believe was the son of Thomas Toon and Elizabeth Bilson... because if that assumption is wrong, then this story about Christopher Toon and Ana Steele alias Kitchen is someone else's family story!

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