Tuesday 4 February 2014

Another Case of a Changed Name: Samuel and Catherine Williams/Lewis

This is another interesting example of a family whose surname changed over time. I was initially contacted to find information about the family of a Samuel Williams and his wife, Catherine. The first thing I found was that most of their children were baptized in Plympton St Mary Parish under the surname Lewis (Figure 3).

Samuel and Catherine had eleven children between 1817 and 1839. Samuel was a miner and the family moved around Cornwall and Devon a great deal, presumably for work. The children were baptized with both the Williams and Lewis surnames, as shown below. The surnames are as it shown in the baptism registers.

Baptism Date
Parish of Baptism
12 Jan 1817
Albaston, Cornwall
1 Aug 1819
Churchtown, Cornwall
St. Issey,
17 Feb 1822
Lewis (1)
Holmbush, Cornwall
Climsland, Cornwall
25 Dec 1823
Lewis (2) (3)
Ridgeway, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
13 May 1827
Lewis (2) (4)
Colebrook, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
13 May 1827
Lewis (2) (5)
Colebrook, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
10 May 1829
Lewis (2)
Colebrook, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
11 Mar 1832
Mary Ann
Lewis (2)
Colebrook, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
2 Aug 1835
Williams Lewis
Lutton, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
4 June 1837
Martha Williams
Lewis (2)
Lutton, Devon
Plympton St. Mary, Devon
8 Sep 1839
Samuel Lewis (6)
Williams (7)
North Filham, Devon

(1) Martha died in 1825, at age 3 years, and was in Plympton St. Mary parish buried as Martha Lewis Williams.
(2) In the baptism register the father’s forenames are shown as Samuel Williams.
(3) John died in 1825, at age 1 year, and was buried in Plympton St. Mary parish as John Lewis Williams.
(4) Joseph died in 1828, at age 1 year, and was buried in Plympton St. Mary parish as Joseph Williams Lewis.
(5) Benjamin died in 1827, at age 8 weeks, and was buried in Plympton St. Mary parish as Benjamin Williams.
(6) This child appears to be recorded on 1841 census as George. A brother named Samuel, born in 1817, was still alive in 1839 so the name on baptism register entry may be in error. There is no good match on the civil birth register for a child of the names of either Samuel Williams or Samuel Lewis. The birth of a George Lewis was registered in the September quarter of 1839 in the Totnes Registration District (which includes Ugborough parish) that could be this child.
(7) In the baptism record the father’s name shown as Samuel Lewis.

It is noteworthy that where only Lewis appears as the surname on the Plympton St. Mary parish baptism entries, Williams appears as part of Samuel’s forenames.

The confusion did not stop with the baptism entries. The family also mixed the use of their surnames on censuses. In 1841 and 1851 they were shown with the surname of Williams; in 1861 as Williams-Lewis; and in 1871 as just Lewis.

1841 to 1871 English census records showing Samuel Williams-Lewis family

Of interest on the census records in the birth place listed for Samuel. In 1851 it was recorded as Marton, Cornwall; in 1861 as Morton, Devon; and in 1871 as Martin, Devon. The similarity of place names, other than the county, is important in tracing his actual birthplace. From the age given on the censuses Samuel’s birth year is calculated as being late 1790 to early 1791.

A marriage was recorded on 5 October 1791, in Merton, Devon, between Willmotte Williams, aged 22, and George Lewis, aged 72. George died in 1799 and Wilmotte Lewis married William Bartlett later the same year. The location and surnames suggest this could have been Samuel’s mother. It seems likely that he was born to Willmotte Williams prior to her first marriage and he later used both his mother’s and stepfather’s surnames, finally settling on the latter. Unfortunately no baptism record has yet been found for Samuel so none of these assumptions can be demonstrated.

Both Samuel and Catherine were using the name of Lewis at the time of their deaths, as shown on their death certificates and in the burial register of Plympton St. Mary parish.

The children of Samuel and Catharine also used a number of different names on census and marriage records which I will discuss in my next post.

Census records are the property of The National Archives and published under their Open Government License. Images were downloaded from Ancestry.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He serves as the Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.