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Reputed name?

Discussion in 'General Genealogical Queries' started by Pauline, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    I have a will written in 1802 in which the testator (John Smith) makes a bequest to:

    "my natural daughter known or called by the reputed Name of Mary Lambert"

    I am wondering what he might mean by the term "reputed name". Could he mean it was an assumed name and not the one she was born with?
  2. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It means the name she went by at the time the will was written . As an illegitimate child she was legally nobody's child, so she wouldn't have acquired a name by virtue of her birth.
  3. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Yes, I’m aware of the legal status of illegitimate children as it applies to things like marriage consent and intestacy, but I am not aware of it applying to a person’s name. It was the accepted norm for illegitimate children to take their mother’s surname and this would be the name that they were legally known by.

    The term “reputed” is usually used to indicate something other than the expected norm. So, for example, if an illegitimate child was known instead by their father’s surname, then this would strictly have been their “reputed name”.

    This isn’t the case here so I was wondering if the surname Lambert might be a stepfather’s name rather than her mother’s.
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  4. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    When you draw up a will the aim is to anticipate any possible problems, and avoid them. The issue of leaving bequests to illegitimate children is quite a thorny one (see the book that I reviewed a few months ago), so don't expect wills to be written in plain English, and don't try to read between the lines - the job of a lawyer is to ensure that the meaning is clear and unambiguous.

    One of my relatives left a bequest to the illegitimate child of his wife's sister - and was careful not to name the child, probably because he wasn't sure what he should give as the child's surname.

    Lambert could be the father's name; it could also be the mother's maiden name, or her mother's maiden name, or the name of the man one of them married - the possibilities are endless because in England we can change our name at will. (As soon I start calling myself by another name it becomes my legal name.)

    In summary, Lambert is the surname by which the child was known at the time the will was drafted, and that's all you can be sure of. If the child had another name it would almost certainly have been stated in the will for the avoidance of doubt.

    Note: in general where aliases are shown in documents it is usually because the individual was known by different names at the same time, ie some people knew him as AB and others knew him as XY.
  5. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    This appears to be the case with my Dad. In England, he was Jack (or John) Joyce but in Canada, when his mother told him his father's name was Roberts (not true) he became Jack Roberts. Even when he joined the Canadian Army in 1940 he was Jack Roberts; I guess a birth certificate or other identification was not required back then as it is now.

    And these days illegitimate children seem to automatically be given the father's name, as is the case with most of my grandchildren. None of my children were married when theirs were born and all but two (of ten) have their Dad's surname.
  6. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    I'm aware of that, of course, and it's partly why I am querying the term"reputed name". I am familiar with the phrase "known or called by the name of" in wills and other official documents, but I don't recall seeing it as "known or called by the reputed name of" before. I guess if it was simply a way of referring to her legal name (that is, the name she was known by) the word "reputed" seems unnecessary.

    Also, even if John Smith had other natural daughters named Mary (and he only mentions the one in his will), a full name on its own should have been sufficient to identify which one he meant.
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    If you are a beneficiary you have to prove your identity - the executors won't necessarily know all of the beneficiaries by sight.

    The way the will is written allows for the possibility that Mary Lambert might not have any documentation to prove who she is, and that the executors will have to rely on the evidence of others who know her by that name.

    Also see this extract from a law book:

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  8. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    I'm not sure what the date of this book is, or what dates it applies to, but it seems to say much the same as I've seen elsewhere, in that a "reputed name" is acquired by reputation and not at birth. It seems generally to refer to an illegitimate child taking on the surname of their reputed father and using that name for official purposes by reputation - at least this is how I have understood this and similar texts.

    Mary Lambert's reputed father was John Smith so clearly she wasn't using his surname.

    But my issue here is trying to work out where she was born and for that it would help to know her birth name. I have had no luck so far tracing her baptism as a Lambert (or Smith). But maybe she wasn't baptised.
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Do you need to know where she was born, or do you need to know who her mother was?
  10. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    I'm actually trying to find out more about her father, John Smith, and investigating where and when Mary Lambert was born and/or who her mother was might offer me a few more clues.

    John Smith was brother of my ancestor Job Smith, and according to John's will, there was also a sister (Mary, I think) and I'm trying to follow up every possible lead in the hope of identifying who their parents might have been.

    When searching for needles in haystacks I try to leave no stone unturned - if I am allowed to mix my metaphors!
  11. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    Why did they use an "f" instead of an "s" for some words back in the day? One of my great grandfather's name was Cross and it took me some considerable time to realize that the "f"s in his name were actually"s" when looking at his daughter's marriage information. I thought that I had the wrong information about the name being Cross. I notice in that example above that it is not done all the time.
  12. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    They didn't use an 'f', it was a long 's' - I imagine it was originally a way of making handwriting easier to read, since if you get a string of characters without descenders or ascenders they can look very similar.

    The real question is why did we stop using it - it seems to have fallen out of favour in print in the early 19th century, and in handwriting a little later?

    Another character that vanished is thorn, which is seen in parish registers up to the 19th century, but was rarely seen in print (there was a tendency to substitute 'y', so you got 'ye' rather than 'the'). Vicars usually had a classical education so perhaps it isn't surprising that their thorns tended to look like thetas.
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  13. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    I had to Google 'thorn' since I have not heard of that one either. It seems there were a lot of weird symbols back in the day, as I found in this link which includes the long 's'.
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  14. Liberty

    Liberty LostCousins Megastar

    Peter said :
    They didn't use an 'f', it was a long 's' - I imagine it was originally a way of making handwriting easier to read, since if you get a string of characters without descenders or ascenders they can look very similar.
    The real question is why did we stop using it - it seems to have fallen out of favour in print in the early 19th century, and in handwriting a little later?

    I have a sampler done by my great grandmother, in 1869 in which she lists the alphabet a couple of times. The lower case alphabet includes both the usual 's' and the long 's'.
  15. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Member

    (I'll stick my teacher/linguistics hat on for this one!)

    The thorn (þ), the eth (ð) - both used for the "th" sound; the wynne (ƿ) originally used for "w"; as well as the ash (æ) were letters originally within the Old English alphabet and were slowly replaced during the 300-odd years of French ascendancy over English post 1066. Old English completely stopped being written (according to historical linguistic scholars) in 1154, when the last entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was made and possibly the last of the priests/monks able to write Old English died or was replaced.
    English wasn't written again (officially) until Henry IV's time (considered first King of that era to have English as a first language) when it finally replaced Norman French as the language of the aristocracy and officialdom. The linguist I'm reading at the moment thought that when Middle English was first written down (as was known from
    1150-1470) it was influenced by the French trained scholars who wrote it like they thought it should sound, and thus the old letters were removed. By the 1500s (Early Modern English) those letters had completely vanished - so finding a thorn in something much later is really interesting.
    (apologies, I could go on forever...)

    Another interesting one from Old English is using what looked like a low hanging "7" as shorthand for "and" and a curiously shaped "ȝ" (the yogh - which vanished along with the applicable far back consonant - think of the proper pronunciation of "Bach" or "loch"). The long "s" (ſ) was also used in Old English and held out a lot longer in orthographic representations than the other letters.

    Just out of curiosity - what was the age of the document with the thorn?
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