What’s In A Name?


I’ve been missing from blog land for some time while I was on a genealogical wild goose chase. I had a crazy theory by the tail and had to chase it as far as I could. I finally ran out of puff with only a wild idea and a whole pile of circumstantial evidence to show for my efforts.

And one tiny important crack in my brick wall…

Our story begins…

My husband’s 3 x great grandfather, Henry BRAND, had 9 children. Their mother, depending upon what record you are using at the time, was Alicia Eleanora or Alice E or just Alice.

We know this because on her children’s original parish baptism or burial records she is named as “Alicia Eleanora”. She also uses the same name when she witnessed her sole surviving daughter’s marriage.

But in all other records she is listed as just “Alice” or, on one occasion, as “Alice E.”. These records include: her entries in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 England Census, her parish burial record and death certificate, her name mentioned in the wills for her husband and her father-in-law and her signature as witness to at least one other marriage.

Note that for all of the records mentioned above, I have copies of the original documents.

So, when it came to tracking down her marriage to Henry BRAND, it didn’t seem that it should be too difficult. And, indeed it wasn’t. I could only find one marriage that matched the time and names and only two record entries for this marriage.

One record is a transcription by the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society which gives the following details:

Groom: Henry BRAND
Bride: Alica Eleanora ELLIOT
Date: 8 August 1820
Place: Chard, Somerset
Method: By Licence 1

The other record is another transcription on Family Search which is almost exactly the same except the Bride’s name is:

Alicia Ellaner ELLIOTT 2

Hmmm. Slightly different spelling.

Ah. Transcriptions.

And right there is one of the problems of a transcription. You are relying on another person’s ability to read the record correctly.

Another problem is that all other information is missing. For example:

  • What was their marital status at the time of the wedding (i.e. Bachelor/Spinster or Widower/Widow)?
  • Where were they living at the time?
  • Are fathers’ names listed?
  • What do their signatures look like?
  • Who were the witnesses?

On the hunt for Alicia Eleanora…or Alice E…or Alice…

In any case, when I first found the marriage record, I teamed Alice’s maiden name with her birth information from the 1851/1861 census records which indicate she was born in St Pancras, Middlesex about 1801/1802. But I have not been successful in finding her baptism record. I have expanded both the years and location to the whole of the UK but could find nothing that really matches. I have even eyeballed the original scans of the St Pancras baptism parish records for a few years either side – checking every page – but could not find a record.

Another mystery is why she was in Chard, Somerset. I couldn’t find any family in Chard that seem to be related to her and overall it has been a great mystery.

This has bothered me for a few years now, and I keep returning to her. Eventually, I thought it might be a good idea to see if I could find a copy of the original marriage entry. Maybe, I thought, one of the witnesses is a relative of Alice that could help me to narrow down some options.

I hunted around, but the only place I could see where I could get access to a copy of the original entry was to order the microfilm via the familysearch.org website into a local Family History Centre. And there I ground to a halt. Never having used their services before, I was a bit hesitant. I dithered and delayed for a very long time but finally bit the bullet and ordered in the microfilm.

Well…What did I find from the original?

Well, for a start, I found that the familysearch.org/Family History Centres were not as daunting an experience as I thought. It was very easy to order the film and when I went to the Family History Centre a few weeks later, the people there were very friendly and helpful.

Scrolling through the microfilm, I eventually found the marriage record. The first thing I looked at was the witnesses. I had started to obsess over them and was really hoping to find a clue. But they were a bust. Checking through many of the other records, I found one of the signatories was a witness to many of the other marriages in the parish over many years. And the other signatory was a witness to at least four other marriages that I could find in a quick search and was therefore also unlikely to be related. What a disappointment!

The marriage was in 1820. At that time, the pre-printed register didn’t have a place asking for fathers’ names so there was no information about them. I did notice that both Henry and Alicia were listed as being Bachelor and Spinster of the parish of Chard. Which is interesting as Henry is actually from Topsham, Devon and completed his solicitor’s clerkship in Totnes, Devon just the year before. What was he doing in Chard?

I finally took a closer look at Alicia’s name. And that is where it got interesting.

Her first names were indeed “Alicia Eleanora”. The writing was finely drawn…except for Alicia’s surname. Here it looked for all the world like someone had taken to the register with a thick felt pen. It was difficult to make out but it did look like a messed up “ELLIOTT”. A bit of a bodgy job, really.

I looked at Alicia’s signature. She wrote her letters very small and her last name sort of tails off. If you squint and cross your eyes, it could be ELLIOTT, I suppose. But I wasn’t really convinced.

In the register, there are three marriage entries per page. Henry and Alicia’s marriage was the middle of the three. As I pondered the details and wondered who had defaced the marriage entry, I moved the page higher up the screen for a better look. And that is when I noticed there was some writing at the bottom of the page.

In the same handwriting and thick ink, was written:

# The word Ellis omitted by Mr Willis the OfficT Minister and inserted by me E. [unreadable] Curate

What The…!!!!!

I had another quick look at the marriage entry. What looked like a bodged up “tt” at the end of Alica’s name was actually a “#” referring the reader to the note at the bottom of the page. Another look at her signature and it does indeed look like “ELLIS”.

I’d been looking for the wrong name all along!

Q: What’s in a name?
A: A Hashtag, apparently.


Not really. I took the name ELLIS and re-ran all the searches and I still can’t track her down! Such is the life of a genealogist. My brick wall remains. But at least I’ve stopped looking in the wrong direction.

I do feel like a bit of a numpty, though. Her son, Charles Hayman BRAND (my husband’s 2 x great grandfather) married and died in Australia. Australian certificates show a great deal more information. Unfortunately, his marriage record is missing a lot of information including his parent’s names. But his death certificate lists his mother as “Alice ELLICE”.3 I just assumed since his son-in-law was the informant, he had messed up the name of “ELLIOTT”. But when I checked the death index entry for his brother, Edward Comer (Connor) BRAND who also died in Australia, his mother’s name is also listed as “Alice ELLICE”.4

I should have realised that something was off about Alicia/Alice’s name in the first place.

And that wild, crazy, absurd theory I was chasing? I’ll think I’ll keep that one to myself until the evidence becomes a bit more than circumstantial.

Meanwhile…Back to the hunt!



“Somerset Marriages (post-1754),” transcription, findmypast.com.au (www.findmypast.com.au : accessed 16 November 2014), transcription of marriage entry of Henry Brand and Alicia Eleanora Elliot, married 8 August 1820, Chard, Somerset; citing transcription by Somerset & Dorset Family History Society.

2 “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NX1P-FLH : 10 December 2014), Henry Brand and Alicia Ellaner Elliott, 08 Aug 1820; citing Chard, Somerset, England, reference 54; FHL microfilm 1,526,462.

3 Queensland, Australia, death certificate for Charles Hayman Brand, died 14 April 1914, father: Henry Brand, mother: Alice Ellice; informant: William John Carothers Watson, son-in-law; citing no 1914/C300, Registrar-General, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Brisbane.

4 “Queensland, Death Historical Index: 1829-1986,” database, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Queensland Government (https://www.bdm.qld.gov.au/IndexSearch/queryEntry.m?type=deaths : accessed 15 July 2016), death entry for Edward Connor Brand, 1878, father: Henry Brand, mother: Alice Ellice; citing 1878/C1016.

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10 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. TallTalesandTrue says:

    The brick wall may remain, but that’s one less brick in it. How satisfying.


  2. cassmob says:

    I have been extolling the virtues of FS microfilms for years as I’ve done so much of my research with them…I’m the almost-original Doubting Thomas. I think it’s great that you’ve shared this story as it shows we all make mistakes and assumptions in the course of our work. One brick down, wall soon to follow…good luck!!


    • Thanks, Cassmob! I’ll definitely be taking advantage of FS microfilms from now on. It was such a simple process and the charge is minimal since they have to ship it from the other side of the world. I found the people at the FHC just wonderful and helpful as well. I’m still chiselling away at that wall!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. crissouli says:

    I have included your blog in Interesting Blogs in Friday Fossicking at


    Thank you, Chris


  4. Pingback: Alicia’s Story: Part 1 – The Mysterious Alicia | Family Fractals

  5. Pingback: Alicia’s Story: Part 2 – A Wild Theory Is Born | Family Fractals

  6. Pingback: Alicia’s Story: Part 3 – Wobbling On A Family Tree Branch | Family Fractals

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