6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (7) AS The Value of Names

Helen Moorwood 2013

N.B. By clicking on the coloured title you can return to the original articles written in early 2004 and placed by Peter Duxbury on A Duxbury Family Website in March 2004, where it still is, under:

Helen's Story: from Duxbury to Shakespeare. The story of William Shakespeare's Lancashire Ancestry, by Helen Moorwood

10. The Biography of Alexander Standish

N.B. Most of this still stands, but where appropriate the 2004 version is now updated below by interspersed commentary in square brackets and italics. Some reformatting was necessary, and the occasional typo – whether by Peter or myself - has been silently corrected. Asap a shorter narrative version of his biography will appear, based, of course, on all details and documents in this file. Meanwhile, this is part (7) of (1) to (45) AS. [2013 HM]


(7) The value of names

The brothers born before AS have left behind only their names and burial dates, yet even these are significant in confirming naming patterns at the time in Lancashire. Long ago I deduced what these were and confirmation came from a section in The Ormerods, by Dr Milton Ormerod, published by the Lancashire History and Heraldry Society in August 1996 (ISBN 1 870277 53 8), ‘Childrens’ Names and their value in Genealogy’ (pp. 39-43). In this he reported that when he published his conclusions in ‘Family Tree’ magazine, “I found that I had been reinventing the wheel” and “the resulting correspondence revealed that the system had been virtually mandatory in both Scotland and Ireland at least into the nineteenth century and was reported to have been in use in Cornwall ‘until biblical names superseded the system, probably with the rise of Methodism’”. He (and others) attributed this to Celtic belief in an afterlife and thus perpetuated in the Celtic fringe, to which Lancashire belongs inasmuch as it was one of the last areas in England to be settled by the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings.

I would add to this that many friends from Catholic countries have reported that it is still mandatory today in some families that the first son should be named after the paternal grandfather and the first daughter after the maternal grandmother. Some ancient habits die hard. Basically, in 95% of the families Ormerod investigated, the rule until c.1800 was that the first three sons were named after the two grandfathers and the father, and the first three daughters after the two grandmothers and the mother; after that one turned to uncles and aunts, particularly unmarried ones with no children, in order to perpetuate their name. One statement I have read on many an occasion, “the first son was always named X”, just does not hold water. In a case where the first son survived generation after generation and had the same name, it was always the grandfather’s name, which of course was the same as the father’s. As soon as the first son did not survive, however, one finds alternating names in succeeding generations, following the convention of naming after the grandfather. In 5% of cases perceived by Ormerod, any deviation was because of some peculiar situation in the preceding generation, usually involving a rich uncle or aunt who had died childless, the couple had already benefited and this aunt or uncle was therefore commemorated first.

One main change seems to have arrived in Lancashire in the 16th century with the introduction of using the mother’s (or occasionally the grandmother’s) maiden name as a Christian name for a later child, which in the case of the Standishes and other local gentry saw Radcliffe (Ratcliffe) being used for a younger son or daughter, the Radcliffes having produced the current Earls of Sussex. This seems to have been one public way of proclaiming their close affinity with an ennobled family. Other prestigious surnames as forenames sprinkled throughout Visitation Pedigrees in Lancashire in families related by marriage to the Standishes were Holcroft, Fleetwood and Gerard. It seems to be relevant that the Holcrofts had provided a bride for an Earl of Rutland and the Fleetwoods and Gerards had produced several sons who rose to distinction in the service of Elizabeth I.

The use of the names of godfathers and godmothers from outside the family for early children was, in the case of Lancashire families mentioned below, restricted to the Earls of Derby, who present a special case, with their connections to royalty. Henry the 4th Earl (1531-93) almost certainly received his name from Henry VIII; his son and heir Ferdinando the 5th Earl (1558-94) almost certainly from someone in the family of the current Holy Roman Emperor; William the 6th Earl (1561-1642) inherited a traditional family name but married Elizabeth de Vere, one of many goddaughters of Elizabeth I; their son and heir James the 7th Earl (1607-51) received his name from his godfather James I, which led to his losing his head; and his son and heir Charles, the 8th Earl (died 1672), received his name from Charles I, with one of his sisters named Henrietta, which leaves little doubt about the origin of her name. (Biographies of all appear in the standard literature on the early Earls of Derby by Seacome, Coward and Bagley, titles given in my Bibliography on the Duxbury web site in March 2002.) I have already commented on several little Lancashire lads named Ferdinando at the end of the 16th century, and, pending future possible research, assume that they were most likely younger sons and godsons of Ferdinando Stanley. All I report for the moment is that this name struck me as one of very few non-Lancashire names when I read through the 1613 and 1664/5 Visitation Pedigrees several years ago, and there seemed to be only one likely source.

Lower down the social scale in the 16th and 17th centuries, among the local gentry and their tenants, the same names appear again and again. No statistical analysis, as far as I know, has ever been undertaken, but any reading in local history produces a predominance of John, William, Thomas, James, Henry, Richard, Robert and other favourite names today, which have been traced back many times to Norman French names. Read any pedigree chart ever produced so far of the Standishes or other Lancashire families mentioned below and we find in addition to these a few more standard favourites of the time (this time in alphabetical order): Alexander, Christopher, George, Hugh, Lawrence, Nicholas, Peter, Ralph. My main conclusion is that every single male given one of these names was named after someone in the previous generation and in no way a random name selected by the parents.

This makes the appearance of other not obviously Norman French male names in local families in the 16th and 17th centuries very interesting, amongst which perhaps the most important for AS are Ughtred/ Oughtred, Thurstan/ Thurston and Hamlet/ Hamblett (along with many other variations of spelling).

The most important Ughtred for AS was the father of Thomas Duxbury, who sold all the Duxbury estates to the Standishes in c.1524, which ended up with AS’s stepfather Thomas(2) living at Duxbury (Old) Hall. Other Ughtreds turn up in local families, most particularly in the Shuttleworths of Gawthorpe, a family that appears in the Standish story because one of them appears in a Standish MS and one of AS’s grand-daughters married a Shuttleworth. Their history has been related many times, Gawthorpe Hall is open to the public and has a web site.

Thurstans were in abundance in Lancashire in the 16th century; Hamlets also, with some too early to have had any connection with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. AS must have known quite a few of them and they must have been amused when their name became so famous.


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