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From: Stephen Hayes
To: All
Date: 2004-06-24 04:40:04
Subject: Re: Sidney as a female name

* Forwarded (from: GEN_BRITAIN) by Stephen Hayes using timEd/2 1.10.y2k.
* Originally from Roy Stockdill (8:8/2002) to All.
* Original dated: Fri Jun 18, 04:01

From: roy{at} ("Roy Stockdill")

George Redmonds, in his excellent new book "Christian Names in Local 
and Family History" (published by The National Archives), warns of 
the dangers of automatically attributing the male or female sex to 
certain names in old documents and parish registers, etc.

He writes: "...many names were formerly used for either boys or 
girls. This was true of Richard, Robert and Laurence and I have even 
come across one Briana. We expect to find Johanna for Joan, the 
feminine version of John, but need to be careful with Philip, Thomas 
and Nicholas which were also used for girls. Julian and Christian are 
a greater danger for they were almost always feminine, as was Douglas 
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

Redmonds goes on to cite Philip as being a case where it could apply 
to either sex: "In the poll tax returns the Latin ending clearly 
identifies Philippa Prodeman of Halstead in Essex and Phelippa Belle 
of Blakeney in Norfolk as women but, where the vernacular was 
preferred, we need additional evidence if we are to be sure of the 
person's sex. There is no problem in a Nottinghamshire will of 1532, 
where the testator referred to Fillipe Markham of Hawton as 'my 
doughter', nor in the marriage entry in 1620 of Edward Rossendall and 
Felope Gaskin of York, but there could be confusion when unfamiliar 
diminutives were used. It is fortunate therefore that Philot Clark of 
Northallerton was said to be a spinster in 1641 and Philot Lynas a 
widow, since there is nothing otherwise to tell us they were women."

A particularly interesting forename is Julian. Today it is almost 
always male, but in the period of the poll tax returns 1377-81, in 
which Redmonds has done much of his research, Julian was among the 
most common and popular names for girls in many counties of England, 
being in the Top 10 female names in Staffordshire, Dorset, 
Gloucestershire, Kent and Warwickshire.

I commend the book to anyone interested in names and naming patterns, 
since Dr Redmonds is a superb authority on the subject...quite simply 
the best there is (a Yorkshireman of course!).

Roy Stockdill
Web page of the Guild of One-Name Studies:-
Newbies' Guide to Genealogy & Family History:-

"Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven't got the remotest
knowledge of how to live, nor the remotest instinct about when to die."

Oscar Wilde


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