Tags: first names, Lancashire, nicknames, Oswaldtwistle, research
Nicknames were common usage in all parts of Lancashire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, including around my birth town of Oswaldtwistle.
Many people were known by a nickname rather than by their own name. In my Grandfather Thompson’s family, some of his brothers and sisters were known as Jem (James), Lize-Ann (Elizabeth Ann), Math-Ann (Martha Ann), Telly (Elizabeth Ellen), Pee (Peter). The youngest was my grandfather Edward, who became known outside the family as Teddy Waffer.
Many times people were also known, not by their official surnames, but in reference to their father’s nickname. Thus “Teddy Waffer” was Edward, son of “Waffer”, his father Peter Thompson’s nickname. Peter, a coke burner, got the nickname from his habit of calling water “waffer” instead of the usual dialect word “watter”.
Gobbin Tales, a book of stories told by Oswaldtwistle “elders” about their younger days, gives many examples of names like this around the place.
There was “Bet o’ Peyes” – Elizabeth, daughter of Peter, whose real surname was Tomlinson; “Jud o’ Jeff’s” was George, son of Jeffery. There was a chap in Ossie called Bill Holland. His dad was also Bill, and his grandfather was called Bill, but surname of Cunliffe. So the second Bill was known as Bill o’ Cuns’ – Bill, son of Cunliffe, and the youngest was known as “young Bill o’ owd Bill o’ Cuns”!!
Sometimes, through having the same first or surname, people were known by their occupation, or by a certain characteristic of manner or appearance. Three who shared the surname Johnson were, variously, “Knocker-up Johnson”, “One-arm Johnson” and “Mrs Deaf Johnson”. “Baccy Dick” was so called because he took snuff.
Christian names were often limited in number and ran in families. It was therefore sometimes difficult to work out who was who. It is no wonder nicknames became so prevalent. When researching, you have to double-check that the James or John or George that you’ve found is the right one and not a cousin or uncle.
Even Oswaldtwistle itself has its own nickname. It is usually shortened to “Ossy”. So I’m an “Ossy” lass who came to “Oz” and became an “Aussie”!
Do you have nicknames in your family? What are their origins?
© Linda Visman 16.04.14 (367 words)
Tags: ancestors, Australia, culture, descendants, differences, England, families, family history, forebears, genealogy, research
Genealogy has several meanings, but the one I focus on in my interest and activity is this: the study of family ancestries and histories.
To many people, genealogy means making their family tree. They look up names and dates and relationships and places, but that is as far as they go. All they want is a chart they can display in a book or on the wall. But to me – and to other serious researchers – genealogy involves many different facets apart from, but also including this.
What is the point of knowing names and dates if you don’t know the people, their relationships within the immediate and extended family, the places they lived, what they did for a living, their place and station in society, their religious and political beliefs? You can’t know a person at all unless you know all these things and unless you know about the times and culture in which they grew up and lived as adults.
Knowing all these things gives us a background to our grandparents’, our parents’ and our own lives. It puts us into a context that can give us a much greater understanding of who we are and how we came to be who we are within our family and society as a whole.
I started researching my family history for a college assignment back in 1976. I had to talk with my parents and anyone else I could in order to complete the assignment. I had always been interested in history but, when I went to school, history revolved around religion and politics, gods and kings. In undertaking this new task, my interest in personal and family origins was ignited.
I worked on researching my background for the next thirty years. Because I was born in England and we had emigrated to Australia when I was only five years old, it was a slow process in the first twenty-five years. I had to do everything through the postal service – applying for my grandparents’ marriage certificates, their birth certificates, etc.
It was a matter of slowly working back through the generations to verify names, dates, places, occupations, and so on.
Along with this slog through the records was a parallel course of research, centred on learning about the times in which my ancestors lived, so that I could catch a glimpse of how they might have lived.
Because those times were different from my own, I had always to remember that they had different beliefs to mine, different laws and understandings, different ways of doing things, and different ways of living. I could not judge them by the standards of the present, for their world was a different one to mine.
In the end, I published a 136-page family history book in 2002, which I expanded to a book of 278 pages in 2005.
I haven’t done much work on the family history since then, as I changed the focus of my interest to other kinds of writing. But I am pleased to say that my interest in genealogy has been inherited by my youngest son, who is carrying on with the original research I did on his father’s side of the family.
I hope that, when I die, I can bequeath my considerable research materials to the National Archives of Australia or to the one in the UK. I don’t think my son has enough room in his house to keep them!
Do you have any interest in the history of your family? Have you done any research, or gathered oral evidence from family members? Have you created a book for your family to share their origins with them?
© Linda Visman 08.04.14 (605 words)
Tags: attracting readers, book, book cover, book sales, research, title
I was looking through the library shelves today for something to read. I came across a book with the unusual title “Poking at Seaweed with a Stick – and Running Away from the Smell”. My eyes passed it by … and then were drawn back to it. I pulled it from the shelf to have a look at the back cover blurb. And I brought it home with me – I’d been hooked.
Does your title matter? My oath, it does. When a shopper picks up your book from among a multitude of other books, it is because something has spoken to them. It may be the cover of the book, but often, it is the title that attracts them first. So, how do you get a title that draws a reader to your book?
I decided to do a little research, and I found that most articles on book titles refer to non-fiction books. They talk about making the title a positive one, reflecting the content and meaning of your book. That’s okay, but I write fiction and memoir, and I wanted to know what makes a good title for those. I found a few items that dealt with books other than “How to” do this or that. Most of them referred to self-published books, as a publisher will often decide on a book’s title unless the author has come up with a great one. Here is a summary of the suggestions the authors made.
- The cover is the first thing the reader sees. It creates an impression. You want that impression to be a positive one. While the cover design may attract, the title is just as important;
- Generally, a short title is best, so it can be read in a glance, eg Jaws or Bliss. However some long titles work if they make the reader wonder what the story is about, eg Eats, Shoots and Leaves, or the title mentioned above.
- Use strong visual images. Alliteration, rhyme or repetition also work well;
- The figurative and the abstract are more attractive than the literal, eg Catch-22;
- Have the tone of the title match the content of the book;
- Use a character name, or a phrase from within the book, eg, Oscar & Lucinda or To Kill a Mockingbird;
- Include a hint of mystery or adventure, words that intrigue or arouse curiosity, eg Chicken Soup for the Soul or The Bone People;
- Research book titles to see what sells, what you like or dislike – and why. You will find plenty of titles on Amazon;
- Brainstorm, alone or with your critique group andrite down lots of words – verbs, nouns, adjectives – that relate to your book’s theme, content, setting, characters, action. Then put them together in different ways to see what you come up with;
- You must be happy with the title yourself.
As you were writing it, you gave your book a working title. Sometimes, that can end up as the final title. However, be careful you don’t become too attached to it, because it will be harder for you to change it to something more appropriate and attractive to readers. I think that if I had done this bit of research before publishing my first novel, I may have ended up with quite a different title for it.
© Linda Visman July 2011 (563 words)