"...chalk'd in large letters on a board"

Southworth Hamlin. Or Hamlen. Or Southward Hamblen. Or Hamelin. Or any combination thereof....

The correct spelling of his name is a question of doubt. As a matter of fact, people in those times were not particular, and the same individual did not spell his name uniformly, in many instances; there was no standard of English orthography then. In the foregoing pedigree the name  is spelled Hamelyn and Hamelin, in the record of Baptisms Hamblin and Hamlin; in the colonial records, Hamlene, Hamilen, and Hamblen. His pastor, Rev. Mr. Lothrop wrote the name uniformly, Hamling. Rev. Mr. Russell, a successor of Mr. Lothrop, wrote it Hamblin. His sons and descendants for the first four generations, generally wrote it Hamblen; but as signed to his will, it is spelled Hamlin. The descendants spell the name variously: Hamlin, Hamlen, Hamline, Hamblin and Hamblen.
                          --History of the Hamlin Family, H. Franklin Andrews, 1894

One of the happenstances in the hobby of genealogy is working with names: the thrill of recognizing one: Roosevelt! Coolidge!; the giggle when coming across a particularly humorous one: Benjamin Bodfish, Thankful Bangs (both Hamlin relations--honestly).

Southworth Hamlin, a paternal seventh great-grandfather, has one of those unusual names that can be both a blessing and curse in family history research. Certainly there are fewer Southworth Hamlins than, say, William Carters (a maternal third great-grandfather). But with all the variants the unusual names often have, their scarcity nearly negates any value as an expedient.

As just one example, take what you might think an unusual name: Constantine Connelly (a maternal fourth great-grandfather). Not only is there the challenge of C-o-n or C-o-double n, -e- then l or double l -y, but the--to me--astounding discovery that there were two  contemporaneous, unrelated Constantine Connellys in the same general geographic area! No wonder within a generation our family standardized it as Conley....

A similar issue arises with recurring names in families: on the one hand, they can be useful to ascertain (or help verify) family groups, but alternately, they can lead to confusion. My--by no means vast--family tree contains four different Elizabeth Motts, seven John Morrisons, (or Morisons), and eight John Maxwells. The confusion becomes amplified when families intermarry. Consider the case of Dor Henry Eaton (a paternal second great-grandfather): of the eight couples who comprise his second great-grandparents, three are the same pair....

Simple, right?

As you can see, his parents were first cousins, as were his paternal grandparents. And this is just my immediate forebear; the Harts and Eatons all had lots of children, and many did the same thing. As the genealogist's old joke goes: I'm so New England, I'm my own cousin!

Five generations of  Eatons & Harts, c 1911
. From left: Clarissa Alma Cornwell, Thettis Caroline Hart, Dor Henry Eaton,
 Jennie Arleta Eaton (his daughter), and Leroy Stanley Burnett (her son).

Then there are patronymics and other naming patterns to factor in. If only it were all as simple as the Swedes! Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (a paternal great grandfather) has his grandfather's first name as his middle. In between sits Charles A Burnett; I would like to believe that "A" stands for Alfred, but I have no proof, as the namesakes are haphazard.

There are many instances in which a woman's maiden name becomes her middle initial upon her marriage. And of course there are nicknames. Going back to the chart above, there has been confusion about Eliakim Eaton's wives. He married first Elizabeth Hart; when she died, he remarried (some time in his seventies!) a "Betsy E." (as she is identified on their tombstone), leading many to suppose that the two women are one, despite different birth and death dates.

Ludington Cemetery
Ludington, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Photo: Terri Woodford

And what about matching names? I have never been a fan. Growing up, I knew a family who named each of their daughters with names beginning with "L." Ultimately, they had seven girls, and the names got more and more obscure.... My maternal grandmother and her sisters each share the initial "M" for their middle names; her husband and his brother both have middle names beginning with "E" as did their father and his father. My grandparents apparently attempted to keep that tradition alive, as my mother and uncle both have middle names beginning with "A."  But there it ended: I am named after two uncles, while my sister is named after two of my mother's friends. That uncle's children have names taken from within the family, but to no discernible pattern.

Sometimes the names are just odd: twins Florence Augusta Ketchum and Frederick Augustus Ketchum having matching initials (fine, I suppose, for twins), but where did their twinnish middle name come from? There are no other classical names in the family, but stranger still, they were born in July....

Alongside recurrence of names in families is general popularity. Certain names immediately suggest an era or region. I expect that every girl named Shirley was born in the 'thirties; surely there was never a Brittany before the 'eighties. Regional accents, now nearly a thing of the past, could add a layer of confusion as well, especially before literacy and standardized spelling came along. Census takers would write down what they heard, as best they could, leading to some very interesting names, the more so as those names sometimes became further garbled when transcribed later.

Although regional accents have all but vanished, and the Internet has made the world seem a smaller place, I wonder if our text-happy present, with its acronyms, abbreviations and shortcuts replacing hand-written documents (leaving no readily available trail), as well as our e-culture of numbers and passwords for everything (likewise), will keep future genealogists working just as hard--if not harder--to find out the names of their ancestors.

The nature of families--and consequently, family names--is evolving as well. Unmarried parents, step-families, same-sex couples, hyphenates.... In my own family we even have an admirable couple in which a husband took his wife's name. Progressive steps, indeed, but each will no-doubt bring its own challenges to future historians trying to unlock family relationships.

What will the next generations make of the Jadens, Tylers and Madisons of today? Who knows. In the meanwhile, I have decided it is Southworth (being the maiden name of his grandmother) Hamlin (his grandfather Eleazer declaring the silent B "useless").

Southworth Hamblen's [sic] headstone,
West Barnstable Cemetery, Barnstable Massachusetts.

1. Southworth Hamlin was born 21 May 1721 in Barnstable, Massachusetts, a town founded in part by his great-grandfather, James Hamlin (1606 -22 Oct 1690) in 1639. Southworth was the youngest child of Joseph Hamlin (20 Nov 1680 - 27 Aug 1766) and Mercy Howland (1678? - 1721). He married first Martha Howland (abt 1716 - 20 Sep 1756), a relation of his mother's; the Rev Mr Jonathan Russell officiated. They had no children. After Martha's death, he married Tabitha Atkins (1716 - 27 Nov 1770) on 12 May 1757 in Barnstable. Although the Hamlin men tended to be long-lived, he died 13 January 1766, at age forty-four.

2. Bethiah Hamlin (3 Jul 1758 - 1830) married Amaziah Doty (17 May 1756 - 24 Jan 1833), son of Ebeneezer Doty (abt 1727 - 23 Jul 1766) and Mercy Whiton (abt 1732 - abt 1763), on 3 December 1780 in Lee, Berkshire, Massachusetts.  

3. Stephen S Doty (24 Jul 1791 - 21 Oct 1870) was born in Lee, Massachusetts. He married Polly Holmes (1788 - aft 1860) in June 1813, at Madison, Madison, New York.

4. Alma Holmes Doty (9 Oct 1814 - 10 Oct 1879) was born In Madison, New York. She married Stephen Addison Davenport (20 Nov 1806 - Nov 1850), son of Williams Davenport  (12 Nov 1782 - 4 Dec 1830) and Hannah Hickok or Hickox (abt 1785 - 24 Aug 1809) in Aug 1835, at Madison, New York.

5.  Henrietta Davenport (Jan 1836 - May 1904) married Charles Swarts (12 Feb 1835 - 8 Jun 1909), son of John Swarts (28 Nov 1795 - 24 Oct 1874) and Mary McDonald (abt 1799 - 1893), in Wisconsin, in 1859. 

6. Ella Swarts (1862 - Apr 1899) was born and lived her entire life in Minnesota. She married Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930), son of Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) and Rachel Elizabeth Squire (28 Jan 1829 - 21 Apr 1902), in Scott County, Minnesota, September 1879.

7.  Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) married Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979), daughter of Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) and Anna B A Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), in Minnesota, in 1909.

8.  Leroy Stanley Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980) married Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002), daughter of Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria Svard 5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 21 June 1933.

9. [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (5 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), in Long Beach, California, on 4 March 1961.

10.  Your humble blogger.

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