Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unusual Naming Practice

   You learn something new every day... so they say.  Today is proving true in that regard....

I have been flailing against the brick wall of my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother; Mary Knox Paul. That was her maiden name.  I was so perplexed by it.  If that was her maiden name then I assumed maybe Knox was her mother's maiden name.  It wasn't uncommon for children to carry their mother's maiden name as a middle name.  In fact that tradition helped me find one of my paternal great grandfather's ancestry because of his middle name of Jones.  I felt sure it must be his mother's family name and it was.  So I expected the same with Mary Knox Paul; until I saw her death certificate.

"Mother's maiden name: Unknown Cunningham."  Cunningham?  Then where did she pick up "Knox" as a middle name?  Was she married previously?  I just couldn't figure it out.

Then I found a reference to one of her daughters and her name was just as mysteriously Virginia Thomas Osborn.  Oh brother; another family name?  Where did that one come from?  I just seem to be going in circles with these people...

Today I emailed the wife of my first cousin once removed.  (If there's an easier way to say that, someone tell me what it is!)  She has also researched this line and I told her of a tiny new discovery.  She sent me scanned copies of pension applications and other things she had collected over the years.  One was a handwritten note from another person who had been researching them as well.  Regarding the daughters' names she wrote,

"They were all named for the Dr.'s who delivered them as their mother was."  EUREKA!!!!!!!!!  I have never heard of that of a family tradition but now everything makes sense.

No more trying to see if there are records for Mary under the name of Knox.  No more looking for another family connection to the Thomas name.  I can search Philadelphia more thoroughly for families named Cunningham and Paul.  Oh joyous day when the lights came on!

The tide begins to turn...


  1. Fascinating. I'll bet you might even be able to find some of the doctors that delivered these girls. What a cool story!

  2. Well certainly if I find what I think might be their family and if they live near a doctor named Knox that will be some strong circumstantial evidence. Yay!

  3. Isn't that bizarre? My husband's family has done the same thing. He and his father both have the same unusual middle name, and for years we thought it was a maternal surname, or even an occupation. We finally found out that it was the name of one of the family doctors. Who knew!