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GENEALOGICAL HUMOUR
DOUBLE BARRELLED

DOUBLE BARRELLED SURNAMES

From the Evening Post 29 June 1895 p2.

Double-barrelled surnames have long ceased to be a novelty. Anybody who is anybody has insisted for the last 30 years on giving his friends the unnecessary trouble of directing their letters with a pair of surnames, when one would seem to answer every reasonable purpose. It was the peers and landed proprietors who began this little game of spelling your patronymic with a decorative hyphen. They chose to marry heiresses or inherit property from distant branches of their families, and to advertise the fact by assuming both names, their own and their wives’, or their own and their benefactors’, as if by dint of acquiring a couple of estates they duplicated their personality, and went about henceforth as living Januses, like the Siamese Twins or the Two-headed Nightingale. They were all of them Pelham-Clintons, and Curzon-Howes, and Ashley-Coopers; they rejoiced in their duability as Agar-Ellises and Bootle-Wilbrahams; they blossomed forth with delight into tandem pairs of Leveson-Gowers and Knatchbull-Hugessens. Some of them, indeed, even went a step further, and appeared like Mrs Malaprop’s Cerberus, as “three Gentlemen rolled into one,” dazzling our eyes with such superb designations as Cochrane-Wishart-Bailie or Buller-Fuller-Elphinstone. After this, was it any wonder that mere ordinary commoners should feel they would stand no chance in the struggle for existence unless they aspired incontinently to be Robinson-Smiths and Higgins-Bakers? You may see nowadays Gwendoline Montgomery-Mullins keeping a suburban sweetshop, and Adolphus Cecil-Jones at the receipt of custom in a Metropolitan Railway. When things have reached this length, what can our old nobility do but “go them one better’ by assuming a quadruplet? Surnames are now threatening to be no longer double-barrelled, but positively to develop into perfect six shooters. Montagu-Douglas-Scott and Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes won’t satisfy the ambition of our newest creations. I believe I am right in saying that at one time the member for Westminster was correctly described as Mr Ashmead-Bartlett-Burdett-Coutts-Bartlett-Burdett-Coutts though he has since sloughed of some portion of this superfluity; and everybody must remember the stirring line “Long may Long-Wellesley-Long-Pole-Wellesley live” which dates back as far towards the beginning of the “movement” as the days when Horace Smith wrote “Rejected Addresses” – From “Norman Blood or Otherwise” in the Cornhill Magazine.


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