This miscellany includes:

Did you know that…

In Saxon and Norman times the year began on 25th December

From about 1190 until 1st January 1752 the Julian calendar was used in England and each year began officially on Lady Day (25th March). Lord Chesterfield’s Act of 1751 replaced this calendar with the Gregorian calendar which was already used in Scotland and most of Europe.

The Julian calendar was 11 days behind the Gregorian. In order to bring England into line with Scotland and Europe, 11 dates (3rd–13th September) were omitted from 1752 in England. Christmas Day remained as 25th December even though 6th January was now a year later than the previous Christmas!

The banks continued with a full year of 365 days so that their financial year ended on 5th April 1753 (11 days after 25th March). This practice has continued to the present day.

There are traditional naming patterns for children

Many cultures used a traditional naming pattern for their children. This may explain why the same forenames occur again and again in some branches of a family tree and can be useful in tracing a family history. However, a particular family may use a variation on the pattern or none at all. The basic pattern and a more complex one are given below:

The nth… Son is named after his …or his Daughter is named after her …or her
1st Paternal Grandfather Maternal Grandmother
2nd Maternal Grandfather Paternal Grandmother
3rd Father Father’s Paternal Grandfather Mother Mother’s Maternal Grandmother
4th Father’s eldest brother Mother’s Maternal Grandfather Mother’s eldest sister Father’s Paternal Grandmother
5th Mother’s eldest brother or Father’s 2nd eldest brother Father’s Maternal Grandfather Father’s eldest sister or Mother’s 2nd eldest sister Mother’s Paternal Grandmother
6th Mother’s Paternal Grandfather Father’s Maternal Grandmother
7th–10th Father’s Great-Grandfathers Mother’s Great-Grandmother
11th–14th Mother’s Great-Grandfathers Father’s Great-Grandmothers

If we compare say the names of the first four sons of Edward McGovern and Margaret Hart we get:

Child Expected name Actual name
1st son Peter Peter
2nd son Edward Edward
3rd son (Edward or) ? John
4th son ? or ? Michael

This suggests that Edward’s father’s father may have been called John, and that either Edward’s eldest brother or Margaret’s mother’s father was called Michael. If we ever find them it will be interesting to see if the prediction holds.

Looking at the names of their daughters, evidence of them following a pattern is less clear:

Child Expected name Actual name
1st daughter Mary Margaret
2nd daughter Margaret Helen

Either they abandoned the traditional pattern, or perhaps they had a daughter before Margaret (named Mary) who died before she could be recorded on a census. We could further speculate that this "Mary" did not die until her two sisters had been born and named.

Spotlight on…


The surname Brandis is the most unusual one I have found so far. It does not appear in any surname dictionaries that I have seen. I also checked the Guild of One Name Studies — no-one has submitted a study of this name. Well that just aroused my curiosity further.

Searching for Brandis on the 1841 census (on Ancestry) for England gives only 36 people for the whole country. Of these, 15 were living in Warwickshire, 7 in Wiltshire, 5 in Middlesex, 4 in Dorset, 3 in Gloucestershire and 2 in Kent.

The 4 in Dorset and 6 of the 7 in Wiltshire are part of our family. Annie Brandis was the paternal grandmother of my grandfather, Jack Davis. She was born in Wylye in Wiltshire, the daughter of Edward Brandis. A descendant of Edward’s brother William, Kerry Brandis, has researched the line back to 17th century Warwickshire via Adderbury in Oxfordshire. The origins of the name itself remain a mystery.

Interestingly, many of Edward’s siblings emigrated to Australia. Kerry’s grandfather, George Henry Brandis, also went to Australia.

See the Brandis section of this site for more information on the incidence and distribution of this rare surname.

Recording our lives…

Milestones in how church and state record our comings and goings

  • 1969
  • From June the date of birth was included on death certificates in England and Wales.
  • 1911
  • The census taken on the night of 2nd April is beginning to be available for viewing. It is the oldest census for which the household schedules (the part actually filled in by our relatives) survive.
  • 1901
  • The census taken on the night of 31st March is most recent UK census that is fully available for viewing.
  • 1891
  • The census taken on the night of 5th April was the first to note whether a working person was an employee, an employer, or neither.
  • 1881
  • The census taken on the night of 3rd April was the first to be made available digitally for searching across county and national borders (in the 1990s, by the LDS Church).
  • 1875
  • Penalties introduced for non-registration or late registration of births and deaths in England and Wales.
  • A man could only be named as the father of an illegitimate child if he consented and was present when the birth was registered (in E & W).
  • 1871
  • A census was taken on the night of 2nd April.
  • 1861
  • A census was taken on the night of 7th April.
  • 1858
  • From 1st January divorce no longer required a private act of Parliament.
  • 1855
  • On 1st January civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in Scotland.
  • 1851
  • The census taken on the night of 30th March was the first to record exact (though not necessarily accurate!) age, the condition (married, unmarried or widowed) of adults, and the relationship of each person to the head of the household. It was also first to note actual place of birth.
  • 1841
  • The census taken on the night of 6th June was the first to require the recording of names. It also noted age (usually rounded down to the nearest 5 years for adults), gender, trade and whether born in the county of residence.
  • 1837
  • On 1st July a civil registration system for births, marriages and deaths was introduced in England and Wales.
  • This meant that marriages would be valid if they took place before a civil registrar in a registry office or in licensed places of worship.
  • 1754
  • Hardwicke’s Marriage Act required that all marriages (except those of Quakers and Jews) should take place in an Anglican Church and should follow banns or be authorised by licence.
  • 1563
  • The Catholic Church ordered its priests to keep registers of baptisms and marriages. Very few early registers survive.
  • 1538
  • King Henry VIII’s Vicar-General, Thomas Cromwell, ordered that each parish priest should keep registers of baptisms, marrriages and burials. Few records survive from this time.