Do you have a subset of family surnames that are your 'tests' for new online record collections? If you are unlucky enough to have Smith or Jones in your family tree you know that finding a lucky hit on those surnames is very unlikely, but a nice rare name or one of those that is apparently dying out according to recent news stories is much more liable to bring back a record relevant to your family tree.
I usually try Elstob, Mordey and Satchell, those are names in the Sunderland branch of my mum's family tree, then Swinglehurst, that one's in my sister in law's tree, but my favourites are Moderate, in my mother's maternal line and Bormond, both of which are so rare that any hits are 99% likely to be related.
Bormond is one of those names that probably sprang from a misspelling of a more common surname, such as Bowman maybe. All the Bormonds I ever found go back to Alnwick in Northumberland in the 18th century. Passing through Durham in the early 19th century many appear to have arrived in London by the 1860s and 1870s. There seems to be a branch in Lancashire and one or two still in Northumberland, but these days the majority are down south. Of course this is the male line, unless it's through an illegitimate child women didn't pass on their unusual surnames except as middle names. And this is exactly what happened in my family - my mum's middle name is Bormond.
My great grandfather was Joseph Bormond Hutton, he was a grocer in Crook, Durham at the turn of the century. His mother was Ann Bormond Smith, the wife of my master mariner in Sunderland and herself born in Haswell, Durham to Thomas Smith and his wife Jane Bormond. Jane was born in Alnwick in 1812. Her surname has been passed down from its origin for four generations and over a hundred years, but in our branch of the tree that's it, no-one has any reason to pass the name on any further now.
When I first started researching our family tree, nearly twenty years ago now, we didn't know why my mum's middle name was Bormond, but we had a couple of clues.
My mum has an old writing desk, the portable sort with compartments for ink and nibs, and inside is a family treasure of postcards and other ephemera. She knows that it used to belong to her father's aunt, a Jane Bormond Moses, sister of Joseph Bormond Hutton.
|Funeral Card for Jane Smith, died 1874, aged 62|
|Funeral card for Joseph Bormond Smith, died 1866, aged 18 years|
We were doing the research in a methodical manner, going back each generation just like the books tell you to and by late 1995 we had reached my great grandparent's marriage.
|A photo copy of the 1861 marriage certificate of my great grandparents|
I had been looking up the references on the St Catherine's house (as they were known then) fiche at Sheffield Archives and my mum was writing to the various record offices to buy the certificates. There was no online certificate ordering back then. Now we get a photocopy of the entries produced on special certificate paper, an image of the copy registers in Southport. The certificate above is a handwritten copy by a registrar at Newcastle in 1995, of an entry from the Walker Parish Church marriage register.
Now I must confess I still don't have an image of the original entry as entered by the minister and signed by my ancestors on the day - but a relative did tell me about another copy a few years later. On her copy, obtained in 1991, the registrar had transcribed Bormond correctly, otherwise it was similar to mine above. Don't trust the certificates! Try to go as far back as you can to original primary sources ...
As I mentioned earlier, Smith is not the best of names for family history research. And, yes, I have Smith and Jones in my various trees so I can sympathise.
In 1996 we decided to take a punt and sent for the birth certificate of Joseph Bormond Smith - we had the date of his death and his age so it wasn't too hard to find the necessary reference on the fiche.
|A snip from the December Quarter 1847 of the births indices (from FreeBMD)|
When the certificate arrived it was another handwritten copy of the entry in the original registrar's register.
|Joseph Burmond Smith's birth certificate 1847 - a copy|
A search of census records found the family in Haswell in 1851.
|1851 census return for Haswell, Durham for the Smith family (from Ancestry)|
It took me many years to find the marriage of Thomas Smith to Jane Bormond. A Google search brought up an index entry on the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society site.
SMITH Thomas BORMOND Jane 25 NOV 1834 Hetton le Hole Co Durham
But from Sheffield and later Barnsley it was a long way to travel to the Durham County Record Office and on those few occasions I did go I always seemed to have something more important to look up than a pre-1837 marriage. Then one day Family Search put a set of unindexed images online - they were the Durham Marriage Bonds & Allegations. I knew the date from the index entry above so it was just a case of jumping through the year 1834 until I found November and then searching for the right record.
|Marriage Licence Allegation 1834 for Thomas Smith and Jane Bormond (from Family Search)|
Since then I have also found a copy of their marriage entry, but it tells us nothing more. Thomas Smith and Jane Bormond, it really does look like Bormond this time, both over the age of twenty one years, were both from the chapelry of Hetton in the parish of Houghton le Spring. So that didn't really help much with finding the origins of the Bormond name.
A correspondent in 2005 gave me some information on the Bormonds in Alnwick, she noted a Jane born in 1812 to Joseph Bormond and Catherine on an index fiche she had bought, but it wasn't until last year that another correspondent sent me further proof.
|A photo of the Alnwick Clayport Presbyterian Chapel register for 1812|
So Jane was twenty two when she married Thomas Smith in Hetton, Durham and about fifty miles from home. Had she gone into service there as so many young women did in their teens and early twenties? Hmm, if Jane was twenty two ... oh, if Thomas reported his age correctly on the census returns, and we have no reason to suppose otherwise, he was born in 1815 which makes him only nineteen when they got married. But he says on the marriage licence allegation that he is "aged twenty one years and upwards". Ok, so it not just a case of don't trust secondary sources and don't trust certificates, don't trust ANYTHING ... even the sworn statement of an ancestor may be stretching the truth. A good rule of thumb is to find two or better still three corroborating pieces of evidence and then you can be as sure of the facts as anyone can be at such a long chronological distance from events.
Jane was buried in Walker churchyard in Northumberland on the 22nd of February 1874. If she and Thomas or indeed their son, Joseph Bormond ever had a gravestone there it is no longer in evidence, judging by the information sent me earlier this year by the Walker Churchyard Memorial Group. However many stones have been pushed down or become illegible over the years so maybe there was one once - a family that produced such wonderful funeral cards would surely have gone to the trouble of a stone for their family plot as well.