One name, three women, family bonds despite distance; a consideration of how kinship behaviours can be evidenced in names

One name, three women, family bonds despite distance; a consideration of how kinship behaviours can be evidenced in names

Family decisions around children’s names are of interest to academics focused on anthropology, sociology and family history.[i] The use of names has been studied to reveal the tensions around belonging to a community, relationships between people, as well as the survival of minority languages and other indicators of ethnicity.[ii] In the age of digitisation, it has become possible to data mine national collections of records regarding past individuals to understand historical social systems.[iii]

This posting is a brief consideration of how names can be clues to kinship affinities as to who people were in a relationship with. The blog’s focus is upon the descendants of Harriet Cardno 1813-1894 the eldest daughter of a tight-knit family of millers based in Ellon parish, Aberdeenshire. Unlike her siblings, Harriet had broken away from the joint enterprises which absorbed them, their parents, their spouses and children.[iv] The name Thomina Mary Black Jamieson is the backbone of the piece as it provides a link between three different women descended from the Cardno, kin-cluster that existed at the Mill of Kinharrichie through the 1830s,40s and 50s before breaking up in the 1860s following the ‘patriarch’s’ death.

The idea of a name seems simple but can be incredibly complex. On one hand, if the culture of names is not diverse enough a secondary set of identifiers is needed to fulfil the purpose.[v] Whilst on the other, diversity of names can create the environment for an entire telling of stories. For example, my own name like my brother’s was designed to meet a few objectives; reflecting my father’s Scottish heritage, reflect my parent’s Christian beliefs and make a link to relatives, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, favoured cousins. Whilst the parents of Frederick William Louis d’Hilliers Roosevelt Theodore Butterfield of Cliff Castle, Keighley looked to his maternal Roosevelt 2nd cousins as well as a French Napoleonic military commander which reflected their social circles.

When it comes to first names, families in Euroamerican cultures have been able to exercise a creative flare over tradition, as encountered in my recent article that considered nineteenth/early twentieth century women with names like Ethelinda and Carolinda.[vi] In late fourteenth century England only eighty male first names could be identified.[vii] Using as a data mining tool it becomes apparent that Thomina and variants like Thomasina and Tomina represent a newer formula of female names in Aberdeenshire and indeed Scotland.

Naming patterns within British cultures are clearly a bit of jumble with even the stability of surnames being questionable; antiquarian genealogies of elite society expose a variety of name changes to supposedly paternally linking family names, a famous example being Percy.[viii] Despite the presence of some cultural rules, a first son named after the father or paternal grandfather or a favoured uncle, a baby named for an older deceased sibling, a daughter named to reflect her mother’s pre-marriage heritage or in honour of her aunt the same is true of personal names.[ix] When these rules and honourings have been followed they really stand out in the record as signifies; a second son taking his maternal grandfather’s family name as his first or second given name creating some ‘odd’ combinations, for instance, Leask Mackie 1908-1988 and his uncle Maitland Mackie. The nephew’s name linked to a grandfather William Leask whose tenancy passed to the Mackie, whilst the uncle was named after his aunt’s husband, becoming the first of what is now five generations of Maitland Mackie.

So what evidence can be retrieved from the name pattern Thomina Mary Black Jamieson in regard to the Cardno kinship and the momentous decision of Harriet to distance herself from it in the 1830s by moving the six or so miles to Newburgh? Her independent economic setup in the small port and later establishment of a domestic unit with a seaman raised a question in the earlier blog of whether she had broken from her parents and sibling or had merely struck out on her own.[x] Understanding the nature of her individual decision and its context within the wider family makeup is an important clue to power dynamics and social relationships; was she an outcast for defiance, a skeleton in the family cupboard of secrets going forward.[xi] Or could it be that Harriet was held up as a pioneer, an exemplar for later generations of Cardno descendant women?

Thomina, Harriet’s youngest daughter became one of the many women in the nineteenth century who moved from a rural society into an urban setting. It could be postulated that she built upon Harriet’s example when she departed for the English district of West Derbyshire, Lancashire which included the outer suburbs of Liverpool.[xii] Despite her migration south in the 1860s or 70s that took her away from her own core family and her mother’s wider kinfolk, Thomina gained a namesake niece and later a cousin. Thomina’s brother a young seaman had fathered a child out of wedlock in 1874 who was registered plainly as Tomina Jamieson, who became legitimate following her parents later marriage. Whilst in 1886 at Brechin, Forfarshire, Margaret Urquhart, Mrs Cuthbert gave her daughter the even more convoluted name Tomina Mary Black Jamieson Cuthbert, Margaret was a great niece of Harriet, who over decades can be tracked linking domestic units that had dispersed from Kinharrichie.[xiii] Surprisingly given her name and her proven attachment to it through the decades Thomina is proofing difficult to find in the 1871 census; it is highly unlikely that she was in Scotland whilst three Scottish born Mary Jamieson’s of the right age were enumerated as servants in West Derby. Consider whether as a young servant girl Thomina lacked the status to assert her full name in the English census of 1871.[xiv]

An observation in relation to high-status families like the Courtenay aristocrats, made by Professor Henry French at the Maison Francais’s conference on genealogical culture January 2017, was that the assemblage of family histories whilst for private consumption contained important lessons to be passed onto the young. It is not likely that the Cardno families created and kept books and diaries about themselves but stories passed down as oral evidence, whilst vulnerable to corruption, could have served a similar purpose, in which case the decision of Margaret Urquhart to clearly mark Harriet’s descendants as part of her acknowledged kin-affinity is important as it indicates that Harriet’s life story was regarded as exemplar rather than a warning.

Such a conclusion fits with other information gained from the genealogical reconstruction of the Cardno siblings. Unlike some of her sisters’ Harriet presents no obvious evidence of being an unwed mother but her father presents as a dominant figure who gathered sons’-in-law under his leadership.[xv] So to speculate whether there was a clash between father and daughter is a justifiable line of thought as is an alternative that the Harriet showed a desire to be elsewhere and her parents’ responded with support to her dreams, she was after all the daughter of a man who supported not only sons’-in-law but also provided security for his illegitimate grand-children en masse.

In summary, then names whilst potentially confusing could and can also be contentious; with jumbled cultural patterns can be vital clues. These clues not only help in the process of genealogical reconstruction especially over long distances but they also point to larger social questions. In this short posting, names have indicated that families from insecure but not totally precarious backgrounds were holding together a web of kin connections across distances. The name Thomina has also helped to guide an understanding of dynamics between a father and his daughters who did not meet social standards that we in the twenty-first century may expect to see in the nineteenth century; this, in turn, raises further queries about the patriarchy of the nineteenth century Grampian.

[i] Abraham Iszaevich, ‘Household renown: the traditional naming system in Catalonia’, Ethnology, 19, no.3 (1980), pp.315-325.; Eilidh Garrett and Alice Reid, ‘Introducing ‘Movers’ into Community Reconstructions: Linking Civil Registers of Vital Events to Local and National Census Data:  A Scottish Experiment’,Population Reconstruction (Springer, 2015), pp.263-283. ; Pierre Darlu et al., ‘The family name as socio-cultural feature and genetic metaphor: From concepts to methods’, Human Biology, 84, no.2 (2012), pp.169-214.; Robert Netting McC., ‘Interest and Emotion: Essays on the Study of Family and Kinship by Hans Medick; David Warren Sabean; Kinship in the Past: An Anthropology of European Family Life, 1500-1900 by Andrejs Plakans: Reviews’, American Anthropologist, New Series, 89, 1, no.11/10/2014 (1987), pp.226-228.

[ii] Jacques Dupaquier, ‘Naming-Practices, Godparenthood, and Kinship in the Vexin, 1540-1900’, Journal of Family History, 6, no.2 (1981), pp.135-155.; Pablo Mateos, Paul A. Longley and David O’Sullivan, ‘Ethnicity and population structure in personal naming networks’, PloS One, 6, no.9 (2011), pp.e22943.; Jane Hurwitz Nadel, ‘Stigma and separation: pariah status and community persistence in a Scottish fishing village’, Ethnology, 23, no.2 (1984), pp.101-115.

[iii] Gerrit Bloothooft, ‘Data mining in the (historic) Civil Registration of The Netherlands from 1811-present’, Proceedings CNRS-INSHS Workhop” Family Name between Socio-Cultural Feature and Genetic Metaphor.from Concepts to Methods”, (2010).

[iv], ‘1841 Scotland Census’, Foveran; ED1; P4; L1260’, Harriet Cardno

[v] Nancy C. Dorian, ‘A substitute name system in the Scottish Highlands’, American Anthropologist, 72, no.2 (1970), pp.303-319.

[vi] Iain Riddell, ‘Change and continuity: Networking, newspaper, kinships and twentieth century elite women’, Community and Family History, (2017).

[vii]  Chris Galley et al., ‘Living same-name siblings and British historical demography’, Local Population Studies, 86, no.1 (2011), pp.15-36.

[viii] so that the Percy name remained with the Northumberland inheritance

[ix] Clodagh Tait, ‘Spiritual Bonds, Social Bonds: Baptism and Godparenthood in Ireland, 1530–1690’, Cultural and Social History, 2, no.3 (2005), pp.301-327.; Chris Galley et al., Living same-name siblings and British historical demography

[x] Iain Riddell, ‘Riddell Family Tree’,, ‘Alexander Mitchell, 1817-1887, 1806-1807, 1860-1892’

[xi] Anna Clarke, ‘family secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain by Deborah Cohen (review)’, Victorian Studies, 57, no.1 (2014), pp.131-133.

[xii], ‘1881 England Census’, Pi3646; F47; P11; 1341873, Tomina Jameson; ‘1891 England Census’, Pi2973; F84; P27; 6098083, Thomina M B Benson

[xiii] Iain Riddell, ‘Reconstituting Individual Agency and Intent Through the Family Network’, Living the Family blog, < >

[xiv] Prescott, Little Woolton, with the Trembles; West Derby, West Derby with the Hedleys; Fairfield St John, West Derby with the Bergers

[xv], ‘1851 Scotland Census’, Pi.SCT1851/192, Ellon –Aberdeenshire, ED6, F171 P7


Author: collating kinship

Iain Riddell is a University of Leicester PGR commencing Nov 2014 focused upon building an understanding of the application of kinship as a tool to explore UK socio-political and economic history post 1800. He has previously worked in inner urban local community and faith-based projects, specialising in marginalised communities.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.