U is for …

The latest in my ad hoc series on surname origins.

Based on: Reaney, P H, (ed. Wilson, R M), 1997, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd ed., OUP, Oxford, unless otherwise stated.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  John Underwood, father of Mary Underwood, baptised 25 January 1713, St Mary, Stafford, Staffordshire.

St Mary the Virgin Stafford font Geograph Alan Murray-Rust
Medieval font, St Mary the Virgin, Stafford, where Mary was baptised. Via Geograph, copyright Alan Murray-Rust, creative commons.

A dweller below a wood on a hillside, or from a place named Underwood, such as in Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire.  There is a Weston Underwood about five miles north west of Derby.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Richard Upton, born about 1754, probably at Bishops Wood, Staffordshire.

From one of the numerous places named Upton.

Ushawood / Usherwood

Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  John Usherwood, father of Elizabeth Usherwood, baptised 6 February 1687, Measham, Derbyshire.

This name is bundled up with Isherwood.  “From an unknown place, probably in Lancashire”.  The Internet Surname Database suggests derivation from a lost village in the parish of Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire (today just Bolton).  On the Ordnance Survey of 1844 is an Isherwood Fold, to the north east of Bolton.  There seems to be no other landscape recollection at that time.



Shared Ancestor Hint: Onion

Recently, Ancestry alerted me to a potential shared ancestor with a tree named jdenny648.  This is based on DNA profiles.  In previous examples of such hints the links shown through people in the respective trees have turned out to be solid, even when the degree of confidence was “moderate”.  This apparent connection was moderate also, but only at about 20% (going on the indicator bar).  Here is an image. Continue reading “Shared Ancestor Hint: Onion”

Upton Girl

Findmypast (FMP) has added Birmingham Archdiocesan Archives, that is Roman Catholic records of baptism, confirmation, marriage, burial and other congregational records.  This is of interest to me because my maternal line takes me to the Bishops Wood area of southern Staffordshire, where their rites were mainly Catholic.

Walter from Tong

Once again I quickly found reference to someone I knew about.  This was Gualterius Upton, Walter to you and me.


Die 25ta Martii 1833 natus et die 7ma Aprilis 1846 baptizus fuit sub condi # Gualterius Upton filus Maria Upton (olim Daw) conjugum a me Guliermo Richmond Misso Apco.  Patrimus fuit # Degitis domo Matris apeed Bishop’s Wood.  Matrinus fuit _______________.


Aprilis = April
conjugum = married
degitis = time spent
die = day
domo = home
filia = daughter, filius = son
fuit = was
Martii = March
Matrimus = Godmother
natus = was born (nata is female version)
olim = once (or formerly)
Patrimus = Godfather
sub condi = under (or subject to) conditions
vidua = widow


On the 25 day of March 1833 was born and on the 7th day of April 1846 was baptised subject to conditions (#) Walter Upton son of Mary Upton (formerly Daw) married, by me Guliermo Richmond, Apostolic Missionary.
Godfather was (none) #Spent time at home of mother abode Bishop’s Wood.
Godmother was (none).

So, I could now add date of birth, but who was Mary Daw?  Well, it says she was married, but I have not yet found a relevant record.

There was also a baptism of Walter Upton at Tong, Shropshire, which is not far from Bishop’s Wood, on 29 Mar 1833, mother Mary.  No father’s name was given.  It is annoying to me that the transcribers have not recorded that Mary was a widow, which is patently clear from the image on FMP.  This baptism date fits Walter’s age (18) in the 1851 census and his birth four days before.

The abode given is “Work House”, which was at Tong Norton.  This may simply have been because Mary was widowed, rather than being destitute, though she did have five children to look after.

Now for the Upton girl

On the previous page I found the baptism of a Maria Upton, who was about 57 years old, on the day before Walter.  It seemed likely they were linked: perhaps they were mother and son?

Die 6ta Julii 1788 nata et die 6ta Aprilis 1846 baptiza fuit sub condi Maria Upton, vidua, filia Josua et Anne Parker (olim _____ ) conjugum a me Guliemo Richmond Misso Apco.
Patrinus fuit __________

Matrinus fuit _________

Essentially, Mary Upton born 6 Jul 1788 and baptised 6 Apr 1846, daughter of Joshua and Anne Parker.  So Mary was born Parker. The 1851 census gives her birthplace as Forton, Shropshire.

In the parish records for All Saints, Forton, Shropshire (FMP image): July 6th Mary dau: of Joshua & Ann Parker was baptized.

The small village of Forton lies just to the north of Newport, Shropshire.  I must have passed through at some time, but I can’t bring it to mind.

Forton, Shropshire: Ordnance Survey 1900, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

From the parish register for Brewood, written in English:

On the 23rd of February 1863 was buried at St Mary’s Brewood Mary Upton of Bishops Wood.  She died the 20th of February, 1863, aged 75.  R.I.P.  Henry Davey Mis. Ap.

The Daw is bolted

The baptism of Mary Upton into the Catholic church clearly records that she had once been Daw, implying a wedding, but I can find no record of such a marriage.  I think the Daw reference must be in error.


Although Walter and Mary were not direct ancestors, I have learned to understand at least something about Catholic Latin registers so that I may be able to find out more about others in Andrew’s Kindred.

The Farmer’s Boy


Just like most folk a substantial proportion of my nineteenth century kindred worked the land, mainly in back-breaking drudgery, and pretty much until they dropped. Some managed to scratch a living on farms even into the twentieth century (perhaps even into this one, though I don’t know of any). But what of those whose livelihoods were displaced by advances in technique and technology?  Where did they go? Continue reading “The Farmer’s Boy”

Getting to know my Onions

When I found this news clipping about Thomas Onion, I thought he must be related, but the connection was not as straightforward as I had hoped. Once again this would take me back to country lanes in southern Staffordshire that I had travelled many times.

Staffordshire Advertiser 25 Sep 1948

Historically, the area is famous for supporting the Catholic monarchy, helping would-be King Charles II to flee the country after defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1851, the final substantial act of the English Civil War. As as child I was taken to Boscobel House to learn about King Charles and the Royal Oak, the inspiration for many pubs named the Royal Oak. This local quirk would make things difficult. Continue reading “Getting to know my Onions”

C is for …

St John the Baptist, Berkswell, Warwickshire.  A place my Carter ancestors would recognise.

From: Reany, P H, (ed. Wilson, R M), 1997, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd ed., OUP, Oxford, unless otherwise stated.

Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred (AK): William Carter, b. 1750, Knowle, Warwickshire.
A man who drives a cart. There is some more elaborate etymology, but this seems the most likely for my family, who were mainly agricultural workers.

Earliest in AK: William Chadburn, b. 1792, Overseal, Leicestershire.
From the hamlet of Chatburn, Lancashire.

Earliest in AK: Robert Clayton, b. 1815, Ketley, Shropshire.
Jordan de Claiton before 1191 Early Yorkshire Charter. Walter de Clayton 1332 Subsidy Roll Sussex. Richard Clayton 1452 Feet of Fines Essex. From Clayton, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Sussex, West Riding, Yorkshire.

Earliest in AK: Francis Cooper, b. 1703, Measham, Derbyshire.
Middle English couper, maker or repairer of wooden casks, buckets or tubs.

Earliest in AK: William Corns, b. 1804, Rugeley, Staffordshire.
Nickname from Old English corn ‘crane’ or variant of Old English cweorn ‘hand mill’ [modern quirn] metonym for user of.

Earliest in AK: Stephen Cowley of Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, married 1735.
I will consider this in more detail later.

Earliest in AK: Thomas Cox, b abt 1804, Gloucestershire, probably Hinton (today just south west of M4 J18).
There seems to be such a multitude of possibilities that trying to find any that applies more than any other to my Cox relatives seems futile.

Earliest in AK: James Craddock, b. 1728, Cannock Wood, Staffordshire.
This is so obviously Welsh that further comment seems superfluous, but for the record: Reany starts with cradoc (caradoc’) 1177 Pipe Rolls Herefordshire. Also cited: Welsh caradawc, cradawc, caradoc [like the mountain Caer Caradoc, perhaps], Caradog.

Earliest in AK: Susannah Cumberlidge, b. 1725, Cannock Wood, Staffordshire.
This is not covered by Reany. However, it seems reasonable to split into cumber and lidge. Comber – someone living in a valley [or combe]. Lidge – Reany suggests this has something to do with lych gate. Perhaps, then, “dweller by the lych gate in the valley”.

A Grave Business

Back in September 2009 my sister and her husband visited.  We had some spare time and were passing through Longdon, near Lichfield (once Longdon-by-Lichfield), and took time out to visit the church and explore the graveyard. So it was we entered the grounds of St James the Great. This was on a whim and I had no notes of whose memorial we might find. So we decided to split up and look for anyone named Greatrex or similar.

longdon st james lych gate (640x428)
Lych gate, St James the Great, Longdon, near Lichfield, Staffordshire

Within ten seconds my sister called out: “Is this one?”. Sure enough there were Mary and George Greatrix, who died respectively in 1821, aged 67, and 1826, aged 81. This sort of information is invaluable to the family historian. The key facts are that George, born about 1745, had a wife named Mary, who was born about 1754.

greatrix mary george bd 1821 1826 l (457x640)
Memorial to Mary and George Greatrix

Instinct told me these were direct ancestors, but this being a spur-of-the-moment visit I could not check my notes and it turned out that this George, baptised on 28 Sep 1745, Longdon(Findmypast image), was brother of my direct ancestor.

greatrix john bu 1817 hammerwich (640x148)
From Hammerwich parish register 1817

My 5th great grandfather was, in fact, John, baptised there on 16 Jan 1748, son of George Greatrix and buried at Hammerwich in 1817 (FMP images).

greatrix john bu 1887 longdon (526x640)
Churchyard to St James the Great, Longdon

We found several other memorials to people named Greatrex and all turned out to be related, but none was a direct ancestor.

greatrix george bp 1716 c
From parish regsiter for Longdon 1716

The earliest person I could track down was 6th great grandfather George Greatrix, baptised 23 Sep 1716, son of an unnamed Greatrix, presumably out of wedlock, and the father’s name was not known, or at least not revealed officially. George was buried at the ripe of age of 92 on 16 Feb 1808 at St James. We never did find his grave.

All of these people, as far as can be gleaned from censuses, were farm workers, mainly labourers. From at least 1716 this family lived in Longdon, but by 1802 my branch had moved to Woodhouses, near Burntwood, then to Stonnall, initially to somewhere near Muckley Corner at the junction of Watling Street (A5) and Walsall Road (A461), then to Hilton and Lower Stonnall. Presumably, they moved from farm to farm to find work that grew ever more scarce as machinery replaced men, boys and horses and a more industrial approach to food production, to feed the burgeoning cities, reduced the need for farm hands still further.

st james the great interior s
Inside St James the Great, Longdon, 2009

For comparison there is a watercolour at the Salt Library.  I remember thinking that if George and Mary were to revisit their local church they might think the old place had changed a bit, but they would have no doubt about being in the right place.