One branch of my maternal grandmother’s RICHARDSON family really embraced this practice. My 5-times great uncle Thomas RICHARDSON (with only one unremarkable first name) married an Elizabeth Ashburnham NORTH in 1790 in Dallington, Sussex, England. Elizabeth was the only child of Rev William I NORTH (middle initial only mentioned in one parish record, and we don’t yet know for certain what it stands for). Her mother Ann WAKEHAM was William’s step-sister as well as wife, so there was already a strong bond between these families.
I think it was important to Elizabeth and her parents (who had no male descendants) to continue on the surnames in her line in any way possible. So Elizabeth and Thomas RICHARDSON awarded each of their three children with three Christian names each:
- William North Wakeham RICHARDSON (1791-1871)
- Eliza Ann Irving RICHARDSON (1793-1877)
- Thomas Wakeham Ashburnham RICHARDSON (1796-1876)
It’s immediately clear where most of these names came from (Richardson, North, Wakeham), but two of them are not as obvious (Irving, Ashburnham). Unless of course Rev North’s middle name was Irving? Anyone want to bet on that? If I ever decide to push this unrelated NORTH side back further, I’ll have to keep an eye out for IRVING families. I originally thought that one of the executors of Rev North’s 1797 will was a George Irvin, shopkeeper of Robertsbridge, but a later document clearly refers to him as George Munn. So much for my handwriting interpretation skills!
The NORTH name has been the most tenacious, appearing several generations later in Australia branches at least. I have been in contact with a talented researcher and historian “down under” who has unearthed some interesting records about these Richardsons. I was very impressed with how well she grasped implications and possible scenarios from her findings, offering useful historical insights that help connect the dots. Such was the case with the ASHBURNHAM name. From old newspapers and the Clergy of the Church of England Database, among other sources, she investigated Rev North’s education and career history. Of particular interest was this reprint in an English newspaper (almost 100 years after the fact):
Sussex Advertiser, 28 June 1842, “Gossip with our Great Grandfathers” column: CLERICAL -
"Lewes, Feb 1747.- The Rev. William North, AM., has been lately instituted to the Vicarage of Dallington, in this County, at the Presentation of the Right Hon. the Earl of Ashburnham; a living worth L100 per annum."
I'd now like to focus on the youngest child of Thomas Sr. and Elizabeth: Thomas Wakeham Ashburnham RICHARDSON, who was christened 8 Aug 1796 at St Giles in Dallington, Sussex. This location was also where his maternal grandfather Rev William NORTH had been Vicar, and perhaps still was at the time of his grandson's birth (I’m not sure if William ever retired). Sadly, his mother Elizabeth died when Thomas Jr. was only two, followed by his grandfather's death in 1800 when he was four. Unfortunately I know nothing else of Thomas’ childhood.
I'm still not sure if Thomas actually inherited part of his grandfather's estate. Rev North wrote his 5-page will in 1797 when his daughter Elizabeth was still alive, but in the end she preceded him in death. His will also named his brother Thomas Wakeham of East Grinstead, who was to pass away before July 1805. Rev North left provisions in his will for all three grandchildren to inherit equally, in trust until they turned of age, under control of his executors Richard Smith and George Munn. However there seems to have been a legal hearing or perhaps a dispute in 1812 when Thomas's oldest brother William turned 21. It wasn't until 1815 that their grandfather’s estate was finalized with the conveyancing and release of the real estate to the Earl of Chichester. Thomas Jr, the youngest grandson, was only about 19 at the time, which makes me wonder if he got his fair share in the end.
By 1815 Thomas Jr was a “gent” living in Walworth Surrey. His older brother William emigrated to Canada while still a teenager, but returned to England to collect his inheritance, settling in Devon for a time before returning to Canada and spending the majority of his life in Ontario. His sister Eliza married a relative James RICHARDSON in 1815 and settled in Brede Sussex. Thomas later moved to Brede as well where he married on 5 Nov 1829 to Jemima BARNES APPS (another name I like). As an interesting aside, Jemima’s surname APPS comes from her paternal grandmother who gave birth to Jemima's father prior to marrying Samuel BARNES. So the records use both Barnes and Apps as surnames, making this line quite confusing to trace. The pattern then repeats itself in the next generation, with Thomas and Jemima having a daughter Angelina in 1828 prior to their marriage in 1829. So poor Angelina had three possible surnames to use: Richardson, Barnes and Apps! Thomas RICHARDSON (mechanic / pauper) is listed as her father in Angelina’s baptism record of 3 Feb 1828, and in a maintenance order, which confirms her paternity. Thomas’s fortunes had certainly declined since 1815.
How many children did Thomas and Jemima RICHARDSON really have? At least eight. The census records, along with birth registrations and baptisms, helped build this family. In 1841 they are listed with only two children: Angelina age 13 and Thomas age 3. His son’s full name, according to his birth registration, was Thomas Wakeham Cavendish RICHARDSON. So the long names continue! With such a large gap between these 2 children’s ages, there were likely other children born in between who died young, but this isn’t a certainty. No such baptisms have been found, although they may not yet be indexed online.
The 1871 census confirms her children William (23), Horace (19) and Mary (16?).
Thomas supported his family through a succession of occupations. He is alternately listed in the census and children’s baptisms as mechanic and pauper, artist, optician and brass founder. He seems to have been a man with artistic inclinations, combined with some mechanical aptitude that he could fall back on as needed. The arts are not renowned for paying high wages!
At least three of his children died before him: Angelina in 1851 (age 23), Fanny Jemima in 1858 (age 9) and Elizabeth North in 1874 (age 29). Thomas himself died 20 Jan 1876 in Brede Sussex when he was about 80. Just a few months later, he was quickly followed by his son William North in May 1876 (age 30). His wife Jemima passed in 1877. Jemima and son William share the same grave in St George's churchyard on Brede Hill. Thomas is also mentioned on the gravestone, but if he is also buried in this grave or cemetery, his dates are not acknowledged or his own grave is not marked.
According to Thomas's published death notice:
Death notice in the London Evening Standard. The Standard (newspaper), London, Wednesday, February 9, 1876, No 16,081, column 1, DEATHS:
“RICHARDSON, Jan 20, at Brede, Sussex, Thomas Wakeham Richardson, Esq., in his 80th year. Friends will please accept this intimation. American papers, please copy.”
These grand-sounding names serve as reminders of their more illustrious and prosperous ancestors. And I like these names!