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Anyone familiar with Scottish "Tee"names?

Discussion in 'General Genealogical Queries' started by Bob Spiers, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    I was recently in communication with a Scottish researcher who picked up on my "Taylor" family research in Banffshire,Scotland. My research was on behalf of someone else but had appreciated the help the Researcher had given. But in a recent email he threw me with the statement that one branch of the Taylor family had the "tee" name of Deacon. No explanation was offered so clearly he thought I would understand; but of course I didn't so I asked what he meant and here is an extract from his reply

    ""Tee" is the local pronunciation of "too" meaning "also" and I think that's the origin of the term, "additional name". In many communities where there were many people shared few surnames, tee-names were given to families instead of or as well as the official surnames. For instance there were countless families called Wood ...and were distinguished by their tee-name, so the Woods related to us were known as Deacon, eg Peter Deacon instead of Peter Wood.

    Tee names sometimes appeared on official birth, marriage and death certs and notices, and followed through the generations. They would have started out maybe as individual nicknames attached to one person then attached to his family and descendants. Tee-names are usually associated with fishing communities of the north-east but they were also in use in Easter Ross. There are a couple of websites claiming to look at tee-names but they are actually looking at individual nicknames which is a different thing. I hope this clears things up?"

    Well it did and it didn't but rather than comment further I would be interested to find others who have come across (apparently only Scottish) "Tee" names?
  2. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Someone on Roots Chat reminds -as did the original researcher - that in the fishing villages of Easter Ross they are known as 'By-names' and often in Gaelic.
  3. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    I never realised when I first raised the question of 'Tee' names on Roots Chat, how interesting would be the responses. I posted to Roots Chat as the original researcher said I could find out more on that Forum. I also posted on this Forum and to date there has been no response but I think at some future point someone will come across family 'secondary' names (in Scotland or elsewhere) that get applied down the generations, so I now pass on the gist of what I have learned.

    In Scotland 'T' names (aka by several alternative prefixes: 'To'; 'By'; 'Other') are used where the same surname, and often the same forename, predominate in small communities. These are often -but by no means only - fishing villages within the Moray Firth area of Banffshire and within the Highland 'Easter Ross' Region, (more properly Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) -north of Aberdeen.

    The 'T' name is given to distinguish a person from his neighbour(s) who would otherwise be indistinguishable from each other, perhaps living in the same street, possibly even the same tenement or block of houses. An example given back in 1892 was of a John Cowie living in Buckie (Banffshire) who was shown as John Cowie Carrot when he married. It was thought this likely distinguished his hair colour. The point to be made here is that this name was shown on his marriage registration. One presumes his wife Isabella would then share the 'Carrot' addition to the surname and any offspring presumably?

    Sometimes the 'T' name would be shown in brackets and other examples include James (Rosie) Cowie; James (Bullen) Cowie and Jessie (Gyke) Murray. No explanation known for these add on names. In other cases official records show the additional name in inverted commas.

    A more up to date example was cited of a Mackay from an area where the surname is so popular it is locally called 'Mackay country' (North Sutherland). He (and his family of course) inherited the name 'Crow' Mackay as they were deemed to be 'black haired' Mackays'. Another example refers to a 'Duncan' ancestor as William Duncan "Gray" with the inverted commas inserted by the enumerator. Other Duncans' had differing by-names.

    As most came from fishing villages very often the by-name was the name of a person's boat; or a distinguishing feature; a Gaelic name, or more simply a nickname. Unlike the Welsh practice of identifying (say) 'Jones the Butcher' or 'Evans the Milk' it seems the Scottish practice was handed down in records.

    I have said it was not confined to Scotland and someone with Italian ancestry relates in mountain villages where over 95% shared the same surname, they were split into long (Lungo) and short (Poco) and recorded as such. I am sure similar practices exist elsewhere in the world.
  4. Gillian

    Gillian LostCousins Star

    The same occurred in Ireland, where my Doherty ancestors were known as Cahir Roe to distinguish them from endless other Dohertys in Donegal.
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  5. Liberty

    Liberty LostCousins Megastar

    I know of 'tee' names, though there are none in my family.
    FYI, Among my ancestors and relatives in Sheringham, Norfolk, (where there was a definite shortage of distinctive names) there seem to be 'additional names' that are halfway to being tee names. That is, they are basically individual nicknames , but a son seems to have the same nickname as his father.
  6. Rhian

    Rhian LostCousins Member

    I have seen the same thing in Wales, although I have never heard of any title for the use of these 'extra' names.

    About 25 years ago I moved to a village in Wales and joined the gardening club, which meant giving my name, at that time I was using Davies which 90% of the village were. To distinguish us all it was common to add the house or farm name to the Davies part, not only separating the people but you also knew where they lived.
  7. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    I recall an old Welsh friend (sadly he died a few years back) born in a small village in the Rhondda, (then a large Mining area) who often commented how grateful he was to have been born a 'Holtham' rather than the more common... Jones, Evans, Williams (and yes Davies), Morgan and similar

    He ended up marrying an English lady and as I knew him lived in a small village in Northamptonshire. He was known to all -and I mean all - simply as 'Taff'. When I asked him what would happen if another Welshman came to live in the village, he replied with in his lovely welsh brogue, and a mischievous grin..."well Boyo, I would have to be known as ' Handsome Taff'.

    He recalled in the Rhondda every other Welsh male worked in the 'Pits', fathers; brothers and cousins and many had the same surname so it was essential to be able to refer to them by some distinguishing nickname tag. He said even with a not so common surname, he was still known as 'Georgie' to separate him from his father 'George'. (It was common of course for first born sons to be named after their father).

    At the Colliery they might have a reference to their place of work, or Shift or by some family nickname. If they played Rugby (as most did) the position they played, or their relationship to someone who had made a name for themselves playing Rugby . They would likely have different identification tags in the Working Men's Clubs and these would take many forms, some pertinent to the person or family, and others bordering on the comical to the profane. Not a million miles from the Scottish 'T' names if you think about it!

    I will end giving my own experience of being known by a name other than by given birth names. I married a Northamptonshire girl and after serving in the RAF ended up in the small village where she was born, not too far distant from the one where Taff lived. For the 9 years of my residence there I was rarely called Bob Spiers outside of my wife's immediate family and although she too became Spiers, she would forever be known by her maiden name of 'Read'. To the outside village I was the chap who married 'Jim Read's daughter' The Read's went back generations in the village (as later I was to discover for myself doing the Tree). However I have to say this family association was essential for acceptance in a small rural community. It lasted a fair time only giving way eventually to 'the chap who plays the piano at the Fox' usually adding ...'Jim Read's son-in law'. I doubt few outside of the family or my workplace new my surname.
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  8. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    By-names are what we had in England before surnames developed around the 14th century. It can be difficult to distinguish surnames from by-names - as I understand it a surname is a by-name that got passed on (so that the original reference to 'red hair', occupation, or place of origin has become disconnected).

    Some of the 'first mentions' of surname usage recorded in books like the Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames aren't actually relevant, because at the time it was a by-name, not a surname.

    I'm not going to attempt to explain how names worked in other parts of the British Isles.....

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