Branch-ing out in Laxfield

#52Ancestors Post V: Branching Out

Week Five of #52Ancestors brings us the theme ‘branching out’. The subsequent post has landed here because my One-Name Study includes a marriage between a John ’Walne’ and an Elizabeth Branch in Laxfield, Suffolk, in 1821. 

In this post, I look at the Walne-Branch marriage and ask whether one party really belongs in my study. How far do I branch out? How far should I?

Branch-ing Out for #52Ancestors Week Five [Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash]

The Branch surname

Named by PublicProfiler indicates several hot ‘splodges’ for the surname Branch, but the biggest is across Norfolk and Suffolk. At the time of writing, TheGenealogist shows that there were more Branch family members in Suffolk than anywhere but London for the Victorian censuses, the implication being that lots of us have literal Branches in our family tree. 

Our Elizabeth’s relations were among those in the enumeration books of 19th Century England. However, because she had married by the time of the 1841 census, she doesn’t appear in it as a Branch herself.

Elizabeth Branch

The Elizabeth Branch in this post wasn’t a Walne for long. If we’re specific to that particular spelling, then she was barely a Walne at all. (Based, of course, on the traces that remain). 

1821: Elizabeth Branch marries John Wharn
1823: William Walne, son of John and Elizabeth (late Branch), is baptised
1824: John Wharne dies at the age of 27, leaving Elizabeth a widow
1825: Elizabeth gives birth to a daughter, Pheebe Wharn (sic). Pheebe dies at six months old.
1826: Elizabeth gives birth to another daughter? Maria Wharne.
1826: Elizabeth Wharn marries Edmund or Edward Neeve

As you can see, only once is the spelling given as Walne.

Was John a Walne, then?

John’s son William was usually recorded as a Walne – his baptism, the censuses during his lifetime, his marriage and death. From William’s time onwards, it’s been consistent.

But John? He was a Walne in the transcription of William’s baptism. But on marriage, he was registered as Wharn, and on death, he was Wharne in the burial register.

It looks like John might have been the last Wharn/Wharne/Worne/Warne in a line that varied into Walne and stuck. This branch is perhaps not genetically connected to the Starston/Pulham Walnes, who connect many of those with the name in Suffolk and Norfolk back into the 16th century. 

I don’t know this for sure right now, but it’s an interesting possibility. The name Walne is often pronounced Warne, so it’s not surprising that one could become the other as civil record-keeping developed and surname spelling became more consistent. 

Does John belong in my ONS?

As far as I’m concerned, John belongs in my One-Name Study. Even if he was only noted as a Walne once, he became part of my study at that moment. Since that register entry, 199 years’ worth of descendants have used the last name ‘Walne’.

I see two reasons to continue the tree back a little further from John. Firstly, to see whether a potential baptism could connect him to other documented Walnes further bak and secondly, to see whether the theory holds that this branch ‘became’ Walnes in the 1820s. Chances are, only one of these hypotheses is correct.

How far should an ONS branch out?

I believe that we set our own rules for an ONS, and it’s not for me to tell you how to do yours. But if you’d like to know how I do mine? Well, it’s pretty simple: I try to document everyone that’s used the name as a surname, within reason. 

For now (and I retain the right to change my mind!), that means researching the whole life of someone that held the last name for part of that life, unless that means going more recent than 1922. I tend to cut off detailed research at that point as I feel like I’m nosing into other peoples’ business. If you can fit yourself into the forest I’m creating through knowledge of the last couple of generations of your family, great. However, I probably won’t search you out without good reason (I’ve been known to reunite First World War medals, for example, but that’s not an everyday occurrence!).

Give us an example

My One-Name Study will include previous Elizabeth Walnes, born to the name before 1922, and I will create a ‘profile’ for them. However, I’m unlikely to spend the same amount of time researching their children (if they have a different last name) or even their spouses. Of course, I might need to use records belonging to family with other last names, but I’d do it to inform my research into the original subject. 

This ‘cutting off’ of descendants, partners, and ancestors is in marked contrast to the guidelines I use for other projects; an Elizabeth Walne in my personal tree and her immediate family would probably all get more detailed profiles.

Fancy branching out? Do it.

Generally speaking, I’ve become more structured over the last decade when it comes to my own research and the guidelines I put in place. However, research is meant to be fun and interesting; you can bend the guidelines if you want! 

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