Family History Matters 
 The blog of the GSV 

Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest

Did Ramesses III have a middle name?

Bill Barlow
Expiry Date

A muddle of middle names

I have always been intrigued about my maternal grandmother's middle names that seemed to indicate possible northern European links, but when I found her siblings' first names I was more intrigued - Owena Lila Haddock(!) and Percy Heyman Spurgeon! If that was a misspelling of 'sturgeon', could their father have been a fisherman with a sense of humour?

But 'Spurgeon' as a name is of Scandinavian origin and means 'little twig'. Percy was the youngest in that family. 'Haddock' became a surname from its origins as a personal name Hadduc - 'one who had prosperity and fortune' ( - and not from catching lots of fish.

The usefulness of tracking unusual middle names was revealed when I found others in the wider family had also used 'Haddock' and this lead to a mother's or grandmother's last name being commemorated - so the female line was not lost. After battling through the repeating of male first names generation after generation - too many Henrys, Samuels, Williams and Johns - it is a relief to find some naming that is 'different...unusual, different, yeah, nice', but retains some continuity. Not like Brett and Kim's 'Epponnee-Raelene Kathleen Darlene Charlene' or baby  'Typhphaanniii'.

But predating Kath & Kim's consideration of 'i-v' for a name, another sibling in my family was first- named 'Ibee Estella'. 'Ibee' is very rare. It can occasionally be found as 'Iby' or 'Ibby' but considering the phonetic similarity of 'b' and v' it could be understood as 'Ivy' (see note). It is rare to find any written record of what parent's were thinking when first names were chosen. If they are not obvious continuations in the family, the only hope may be oral history. Hopefully someone remembers asking their mother or grandmother where the name came from. If you have an unusual name in the family, it may be good to do this now and record it. It would capture untapped family history.

As BDM records became formalised it is rarer to find nicknames or any indication of everyday names. Previously it was not uncommon for only such names to have been recorded. In the 1441 tax assessments for Bolton Lincs a group of women were recorded simply as 'Blaak Margaret'. 'Flemish Lysbet' and 'Gode for Eve'. And 'Baldwin Brekemaker'.

Nicknames (from ME eke-name = addition) can also be a source of confusion for the family historian. Often a middle name is preferred by its owner and given prominence. Harry and Henry, or in my case, Bill and William are used optionally. In our family a sibling was always called 'Old Nick' by everyone - nothing to do with his name Hubert, but a reference to him being called a 'little devil' as a child - and it stuck. Then in the following generation a boy who preferred to be called 'Nick' was always called 'Nicholas' by his grandmother, who wanted to avoid the earlier devilish tag given to her brother.

I am almost sorry we didn't pursue the name 'Billabong Barlow' for our first child, for its Aussie flavour!


And did Ramesses III (1217-1155 BCE) have a middle name?

Ramesses' two main names were Usermaatre-Meryamun Rameses-Heqaiunu, meaning "The Ma'at of Ra is strong, Beloved of Amun, Born of Ra, Ruler of Heliopolis" [Wikipedia]. Judging by his cartouche he may have been a cricketer who once infamously overstepped the crease when bowling!


  • Do I need a reference to Kath & Kim (Jane Turner and Gina Riley), ABC TV sitcom 2002-2005.?
  • Ibee may also be Ibbe - short for Isabel.

Living within 5 km

Bill Barlow
Expiry Date

You don't have to go far - living within 5 km

In previous times families didn't move far from their villages for generations. Many or even most people never moved beyond our recent 5 km lockdown over their whole lives.

This has been a useful factor in tracking early family names in a specific geographical location. Tracing my Barnes family, it has been shown that by 1860 a third of all UK 'Barnes' were in Lancashire and in 1861 it was particularly prevalent in Haslington and Accrington, north of Manchester - in the Valley of Rossendale. 'Golding', a recurring name in my family, is also most prevalent in Lancashire in its north England cluster. Both these name locations probably reflect the settlement there of Hiberno-Norse people from about 900 after their expulsion from Dublin in 902.

A great grandfather of mine set foot on Suvarov (or Suwarrow) Island, a very small Pacific atoll, in 1889. Years later the largest islet of this coral reef would be the voluntary home of Tom Neale where he lived for six years. He was inspired by an earlier occupant, Robert Dean Frisbie, who exiled himself and his four children there for a year in 1942. The islet they lived on is only 800 metres long and 200 metres wide - so a perambulation is well below our present 5 km confinement.

Robert Frisbie had lived on Pukapuka, another small Pacific atoll and wrote: 'Think of it! A woman living on this island for some seventy years and never visited Frigate Bird Islet, four miles across the lagoon! It reminds me of a pair of darling old maids who lived near our ranch in the foothills of California. They were in their forties, alone on a farm only a few miles from Fresno, the lights of which place they could see, on a clear night, from a hill beyond their house—yet they had never been to Fresno nor to any city! Once I tried to take them, and I remember that one old dear couldn’t go because she had a hen setting and her sister was “no hand at poultries”; the other one couldn’t go because she was afraid to leave her sister alone—“something might happen.” So it is with lots of Puka-Pukans. We have only three islets on this reef, yet many of the neighbors have set foot on only one.' 

And to help us live within our own resources, that classic of Thoreau's two years in a cabin on Walden Pond is worth a re-read. 

Our ancestors didn't move far, until they did - when wars, economic emigration and forced relocation, transportation took them to another county or across the globe.



Tom Neale. An Island to Oneself, Collins, 1966

Robert Dean Frisbie. The Island of Desire: the story of a South Sea trader, Doubleday, 1944 / Benediction Books 2019 / ebook available online.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods (1854), JM Dent Everyman's Library 1910. 

[Ed] I thought I would treat you to a picture of this tropical island in memory of all those beach holidays we Melbournians had to cancel this year.