Mysterious family and place names

When you start doing family history, sooner or later you come across mysterious names that crop up among family members, and you wonder where they came from and what their significance is.


I was reminded of this when someone asked on the South African genealogy mailing list about the name Barlow-Jones.

I’m researching a family JONES who lived in Ladysmith, Natal.

They lived in a very big, beautiful house named Barlow House/Lodge.

Can anyone help me with history of this house/lodge. ‘Barlow’ played an important part in the family as 4 of their 13 children had Barlow as a second name.

Well we have a Barlow-Jones in our family tree, a Kerry Barlow-Jones who married a third cousin once removed named Beattie, who is related on the Crighton side. The person who asked about Barlow also had a Kerry Barlow-Jones, born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) but on a different date. No known connection between them, but one can’t help thinking that we may discover one one day. But if anyone knows about this name and its connection with the house in Ladysmith, please let us know, and we’ll put you in touch with the enquirer.


That reminded me of a couple of other mysterious names in our family.

My grandfather was Percy Hayes, and at some point he began calling himself Percy Wynn Hayes, and he gave all his children Wynn as a middle name, and I got it too, though none of my first cousins on my father’s side did. My father’s death certificate shows his surname as Wynn-Hayes. The mystery is where the Wynn came from.

I’ve found no relatives with that name. When I was 7 we stayed at the Valley Inn, Ingogo, for a month, and it was run by some distant cousins of my father the Bradburys. There were two children there, Gillian who was about my age, and her brother Michael who was a few years older. We knew we were cousins of some sort, but did not know how. The name of the father was Wynn Bradbury, so I thought, when I became interested in family history, that if I found more about him I’d solve the mystery of where the Wynn came from. I looked up his death notice but discovered that he was actually Harry Winston Churchill Bradbury, Win for short, and that it was his wife Sheila (born Cottam) who was the relation. So the mystery of the Wynn remained unsolved, as it does to this day.

An interesting sidelight on this is where Harry Winston Churchill Bradbury got his moniker. There was, of course, a famous British Prime Minister named Winston Spencer Churchhill, though he wasn’t famous when Win Bradbury was born, back in October 1899. But October 1899 was the month the Anglo-Boer War started, and Win Bradbury was born in Ladysmith, which was almost immediately besieged by Boer forces, and Winston S. Churchill was there as a war correspondent, so perhaps he was known to Win Bradbury’s parents. And that brings us back to Ladysmith, where Barlow House was situated.


When thinking of names associated with houses, another name comes to mind: Esdaile.

My wife Val’s maiden surname was Greene, and a couple of generations earlier it was Green. You will find her great great grandfather Fred Green in Pioneers of Rhodesia by Edward C. Tabler, though erroneously recorded as Frederick Joseph Green. He was actually Frederick Thomas Green, but one of his daughters, I think, told Lawrence G Green (no relation) that his name was Joseph. Lawrence G. Green wrote books about African travel, several of which mentioned the Green family, and Fred Green in particular, among them Thunder on the Blaauwberg and Lords of the last frontier.

The Green family came from Canada, and spread all over the world, and carried with them the legend that Fred Green’s father, William John Green, alias William Goodall Green, was a son of Edward, Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria’s father. Not true, of course, but his mother, Eliza Green (Fred Green’s grandmother), had two illegitimate children, one by William Goodall, a London businessman, and the other by Marc Pictet, a Swiss army officer.

Eliza Green later married another London businessman, Thomas Esdaile, by whom she had no children, but he became the stepfather to her children by her earlier liaisons. And ever since then, throughout the world, Green descendants have named their houses, farms, and sometimes their children, Esdaile. So in our family history research the name Esdaile is an indicator of a possible relationship, even though there is no blood relationship with Thomas Esdaile.

So sometimes one discovers the story behind mysterious names, and sometimes one doesn’t.

Dead at my age

Some trivia, for those who are interested – Dead at your age tells you who died at your age, and who you’ve outlived. Not everyone, of course, just the famous and notorious.

You are 67 years and 346 days old today.At your exact age, Irving Babbitt died. He was a foremost proponent of the early 20th-century literary theory called New Humanism.

It’s hip to be classical

The Mark Growden sextet have teamed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestrato provide a nightclub after the concert, according to the Contra Costa Times:

S.F. Symphony is deeply involved in a new initiative called Davies After Hours. It launches March 20, right after the last strains of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony die away in the concert hall. Adventurous audience members who troop up to the second-tier lobby will find it transformed into an impromptu nightclub, with tables and specialty cocktails awaiting. Guest artists Alex Kelly and Friends will entertain, providing their own musical reflections on the evening’s classical program. Kelly is a Bay Area-based cellist and composer who has performed and recorded with all kinds of ensembles — from jazz to rock, avant-garde to classical, even klezmer — all over the United States and Canada. His “Friends” for the evening are the other members of the Bay Area’s Mark Growden Sextet — multi-intrumentalist and vocalist Growden, trumpeter Chris Grady, guitarist Myles Boisen and percussionists Seth Ford-Young and Jenya Chernoff.

Mark Growden is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, visual artist, educator, cyclist, and father based in San Francisco, CA, and has a tribe of followers.

I haven’t found a link between his Growden family and mine yet — he is descended from Martin Buckner Growden, son of Francis Neil Growden, son of Francis Neil Growdon of Ohio, descended from William B. Growden and Ann Cocker of Warleggan-St Neot in Cornwall.

Red Cross records — will they be made available?

Genealogy research textbooks have sometimes mentioned the Red Cross records in Geneva, but usually with the caution that though they could have a lot of important family history information, the public was not allowed access to them.

Now, it seems, there has been a breach in the dyke, and a historian has been allowed to use them for research into a war grave.

BBC NEWS | UK | Piecing together the past:

Peter Barton was commissioned to carry out research into the identities of World War I casualties discovered in a mass grave at Fromelles in France. He was given access to the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. There, he was allowed to examine records that have lain virtually untouched since 1918.

The Red Cross has accumulated enormous quantities of records that could allow people to trace missing relatives — not only the war dead, but displaced people, refugees and others who have lost touch with family and home after wars, revolutions and other political upheavals.

No doubt the Red Cross doesn’t have the facilities for accommodating large numbers of researchers at its headquarters in Geneva, but perhaps this breakthrough could inspire the hope that they might allow a body like the LDS Church to make copies of some of the earlier records, and make them available to researchers that way.

Here’s an abstract of an article about these records:

Chapman, Colin, 1994. The Central Tracing Agency of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Family Tree magazine, Vol. 10(7) May. Page 21-22.

The Red Cross was formed in 1863 to care for those wounded in wars, and during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 it formed the Trieste Agency to deal with queries about sick and wounded soldiers. In 1914 the ICRC set up an International Prisoners of War Agency in Geneva. Similar records have been kept for subsequent confilicts and the Central Tracing Agency now has 60 million personal records with names of prisoners, refugees and missing persons. These records are not open to the public, and the Red Cross does not have staff to deal with any queries except for those from immediate family members.

See also this article: BBC NEWS | Europe | Red Cross files reveal WWI cost:

The United Nations considers the Red Cross archive so important that it has incorporated it into Unesco’s Memory of the World programme, declaring it the archive equivalent of a World Heritage Site.

‘These archives testify to the suffering of war. It’s evidence of the fate of millions of people, not just those directly affected, but the relatives and friends as well,’ says Unesco’s Ingeborg Breines.

‘And it’s a huge resource for historical researchers, and for people tracing their genealogy,’ she says.

Interesting children

Denis Ahern does a service to genealogists by transcribing interesting articles and announcements from old newspapers, which he posts in soc.genealogy.ireland and soc.genealogy.britain.

On 17 June 2003 he posted this exerpt from the Cork Examiner:


On Friday morning, at Prospect hill, Limerick, after a short illness, of diptheria, aged three years and even months, Emma Jane, fifth child of Mr. David George Boyd–the second interesting child who died within the last three weeks.

The Cork Examiner, 16 July 1862

The term “interesting child” seemed to be quite common in death announcements of the time, and there was some discussion of what the phrase meant, but the discussion was inconclusive.

What interests me is that a term that appears to have been in common use 150 years ago has dropped entirely from memory, and is incomprehensible to later generations.

What will make it more difficult to track down is the fact that the term was so well-known as to need no explanation. Its meaning was clearly self-evident to those who used it.

Perhaps someone with access to a library that has contemporary dictionaries could look it up to see if those dictionaries have it. Itherwise, I’m not sure how one could find it. Are there any social or linguistic historians who can suggest possible sources of information?

Brathwaite family

One of the families that we haven’t researched for some time is the Brathwaite family of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

The outline of the family history was given to us 20 years ago by Errol Lister Brathwaite of New Zealand.

Caroline Agnes Wilson was the eldest daughter of Margaret Ann Agnes Green (known as Agnes) and her first husband William Wilson.

Caroline was born in Sydney, NSW in 1854, and her father died when she was two, after the family had moved to Moruya, NSW. Her stepfather also died, and her mother farmed out several of her children to be fostered by others, and Caroline was sent to her uncle in New Zealand, Edward Lister Green.

There she met and married Roy Ashley Warre Brathwaite, and they had 8 children.  According to Errol Brathwaite the children were: Arthur Holberton Miles (b. 27 May 1875, d. 24 Feb 1954); Harold Ashley (b. 17-Oct 1876, d. 25 May 1933); Lionel Eric (b. 17 Apr 1878, d. 29 Dec 1948); Norman Esdaile (b. 30 Oct 1870, d. 7 Feb 1917); Frank (b. 6 Mar 1870, d. 1 Nov 1963), George Arnold (b. 29 Nov 1883, d. 19 Jul 1951), Kathleen Agnes (. 10 Apr 1888, 10 Sep 1959); Jack Lister – Errol’s father (b. 22 Dec 1890,
d. 16 Mar 1980).

Frank Brathwaite came to South Africa with New Zealand troops to fight in the Anglo-Boer War, and stayed on after the war. He became a bookie (turf accountant), and in the 1950s was well known for “Frank Brathwaite’s racing report” on Lourenco Marques Radio.He married twive, and had two sons, Guy and Kem by his first marriage, and a daughter Pamela by his second.

Errol Brathwaite himself wrote several books.

There’s more about the Brathwaites on the Brathwaite Family page on our family wiki.