I sort of knew my mother’s family was from Lancashire. I sort of know, I think, that her father’s family came from Kirkby Lonsdale which sits on the border between Lancashire and Cumbria. Since my mother’s grasp on reality wasn’t the strongest it’s difficult to know of the few things she said about her family what was true and what wasn’t.
Now thanks to the amazing National Trust Names (via languagehat) it’s possible to see exactly how Lancastrian the family was. This map shows the distribution of people with that surname in the UK in 1881:
The purple county isn’t Lancashire, it’s what is now part of Cumbria. But the top area in 1881 where people of that name lived was Lancaster, county town of Lancashire.
And the change in distribution by 1998?
These are apples that don’t fall too far from the tree by the looks of things.
I’ve spent a long time assuming that because there are no other relatives (that I know of) I would never really know much about my mother’s side of my family. By virtue of the fact that her father’s family name was relatively uncommon I now have this unexpected insight into my roots.
Although the picture is slightly complicated by the fact that my grandfather’s parents were not, in fact, the couple who brought him up. They were his grandparents. His mother was the woman he knew until her death only as his much older spinster sister. His father was, apparently, a local vicar whose family name I don’t know. But the fact that his family name came from his mother rather than father doesn’t invalidate it. He was delighted to discover he was a total bastard, something many people had called him throughout his life without knowing quite how accurate they were. (I know this is true because I was told by my late maternal uncle whose grasp on reality was much more reliable than my mother’s.)
How exceedingly romantic (in several senses of the word) to “come from” Cumbria. Could the profound yearning I have to live by the sea, ideally in or near that neck of the woods, actually be genetic? Is this why I have a border terrier? maybe I should have a lakeland too.
But seriously, it’s all rather interesting. I might try to find out what my mother’s mother’s maiden name was.