Mor[e]combelake village in Dorset is in a hollow at the head of a stream leading down to the sea. There is a deserted medieval village nearby. The flat field in the right foreground could be a former lake. An early MORCOMBE family headed by Unknown MORCOMBE(22258) was in the same parish, Whitchurch Canonicorum. from c.1550 onwards. Could they have taken their name from the village? Photograph ©Nigel CHADWICK
Derek PALGRAVE, the then President of the Guild of One Name Studies, suggested the term "deviant" to describe apparent variants that were really either clerical errors in recording birth, marriages, deaths, census entries etc., or mistakes made when later transcribing such records. Some deviants arose from mis-hearings, others from a recorder following local practice, which he had previously met. Sometimes a new parish clerk or census enumerator did not follow the spelling of his predecessor. Deviants occur randomly and inconsistently. In most cases, the person concerned, if literate, would not have used the incorrect spelling. However, even Shakespeare apparently signed his name in at least six different ways!
I have come across the deviant spellings below in my research. Not all of them are recorded in my database because, if an individual is predominantly entered with one surname spelling, I may disregard the occasional deviant spelling. There is a an overlap with MARKHAM and some of its deviants (marked with an *) which were noted by Sir Ken MARKHAM. Some of these names may have originally been deviants but were so persistent in some families that they became variants.
MARCAM* MARCHAM MARCHHAM MARCOM* MARCOMB* MARCOMBE MARCOMBS MARCOME MARCON* MARCUM* MARKCOM* MARKCOME MARKEM MARKEN MARKHAM* MARKOM MARKOME MARKUM* MERCOMB MERCOMBE MERCON MERKHAM MIRCOM MIRCON MOORCAM MOORCOMB MOORCOMBE MORCOOM MORCOOMB MORCOOME MORCAM MORCAMB MORCAMBE MORCAN MORCHAM MORCKAM MORCKCOMBE MORCKHAM MORCKOM MORCOCK MORCOMB* MORCOMBER MORCOME MORCOMS MORCON MORCORAM MORCORN MORCOTT MORCOUMBE MORCUM MORCUMB MORCUMBE MORCUME MORECOM MORECOMB MORECOMBE MORECOMBS MORECOME MORECUMB MORECUMBE MORKAM MORKAN MORKCOM MORKEM MORKEN MORKHAM* MORKIM MORKIN MORKOM MORKOMB MORKOMBE MORKCOMBE MORKOME MORKORN MORKUM MORKYN MOROM MORSOM MUIRCUMB MURCOM MURCOMB MURCOMBE MURCON
I regard MORCOM, and MORCOMB/E as variants in my one name study because, one or other of these surnames persist over generations in families. A more unusual variant surname is MORECOMBE, which although often a short lived deviant, has been persistent over several generations in two families. William John MORECOMBE(04172) was christened on 15 July 1852 and the name has been maintained by his descendants. William John's ancestors (or parish clerks) seem to have been confused whether they were named MORCOM, MORCOMBE, MORKHAM or MORKIN! George MORECOMBE(09658), born 22 September 1881, came from several generations of MORCOMBEs, a surname which his five siblings also adopted. George's descendants have been consistently known as MORECOMBE.
Our MORCOM ancestors, up to the 20th century, were singularly unimaginative in their choice of Christian names. I have chosen, as a sample, the forenames of those 689 MORCOMs and close relatives who were born before 1900 in Gwennap parish, which was the home of the largest number of MORCOM families. The following ten first, or only, forenames accounted for 60% of the total births: Anne (or Annie), Catherine, Elizabeth (or Eliza), Henry, Jane, John, Mary, Richard, Thomas and William. This creates the problem of disentangling the families of three of four Elizabeths, married to William MORCOMBEs, who were bearing children in the parish during the same two or three decades. The following fifteen Christian names account for another 20% of the Gwennap births: Alice, Augustus, Charles, Dig(g)ory, Elisha, George, Grace, Harriet, James, Joan, Johanna, Joseph, Margaret, Mark and Samuel. In the England & Wales censuses of 1841 to 1911, the top ten MORCOM forenames were William, Mary, John, Elizabeth, Thomas, James, Richard. Joseph, Annie and George. Jane had dropped to 11th, Henry to 16th and Catherine was not in the top 20.
This lack of imagination in naming children was partly due to the common English naming convention, as follows:
If there was duplication (for example, the paternal grandfather and the father had the same name), then the family moved to the next position on the list. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a high infant mortality rate and it was common for parents to name a child after a recently deceased sibling. If the same name recurs in a family, it usually means that the first child with that name had died. When two forenames began to appear, the maiden name of the wife was sometimes used as the second name. An unmarried mother might signal the identity of the father of her baby by giving the child his surname as the second name.
However Christine TREGONNING reported that mining families in the Redruth and Helston areas often followed a different naming pattern of:
In nineteenth century Cornwall, biblical names became more common, particularly among the more fervently religious Non-Conformist families e.g. Jemima, Christian, Jecholia, Josiah, Johanna, Elisha and Hannah. Between c.1900 and now, forenames became even more varied with historic, royal, sports, film, TV etc personalities influencing choice e.g. in 2014, 244 girls in England & Wales were named Arya after a Game of Thrones character.
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