An ancestor of mine?

An ancestor of mine?

‘That’s an unusual name – is it Spanish/ Italian/ French?’

If you’re also a Boldero/w/we/oe, this might be a typical response on giving your surname. That’s certainly my experience. And also my wife’s and daughters’- who, unlike me, pronounce the name with a definite latin emphasis on the ero (I prefer stressing the first syllable). Then again it’s my family name so my pronunciation is surely the one that counts? Another response – less frequent, more usually with my wife and tending to be restricted to Norfolk is:

‘Are you the people who do the walks in the Eastern Daily Press?’

My tired response is invariably ‘no’. Though on one occasion (with apologies to Charles and Joy of EDP fame), partly out of exasperation, partly from wishing to see the reaction I got, I answered ‘yes’. Gushing praise and adulation followed about how enjoyable the walks were, how useful the tips on eating out, beer etc. etc.

So what’s in a name like Boldero/w/we/oe? Well my exploration of the family tree suggests quite a lot. It seems to be a classic example of how a name comes to be spelled in several different ways (and some of them hardly resembling the main form and sound). In the less literate past, names were more often talked about but rarely written down and when they were the vagaries of accent, lower levels of literacy etc. all had an influence on what was recorded (in parish registers of births, marriages and deaths for example).

My paternal line seems to feature many agricuultural labourers,living in West Norfol. Her's picture of one of them in the early 20th Century, earning a penny a day for scaring birds away from crops

My paternal line seems to feature many agricultural labourers, living in West Norfolk. Here’s a picture of one of them in the early 20th Century, near Castle Acre, earning a penny a day for scaring birds away from crops!

You probably know about how surnames derive from different sources– some based on where someone lives, some on personal physical features, some on occupations carried out. Some allude to personal character traits and it seems that Boldero stems from a personal name which in old german means ‘bold ruler’. The Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames (John Titford. Penguin Books, 2009), suggests that it is found chiefly in East Anglia and more amusingly is synonymous with Baldrick. So a north european rather than Mediterranean homeland seems likely.

Certainly my family tree research has found strong links back to a John Baldrick (born in South Acre, Norfolk in 1735) and it is interesting to note how the form and spelling of the name has varied over the generations. The Dictionary goes on to say:

‘To those whose understanding of medieval times has been  conditioned by the television series Blackadder, the name Baldrick will forever be associated with the character of that name, a former dung- shoveller played by Tony Robinson, who acted as sidekick and punch-bag to Edmund Blackadder.

Returning to John Baldrick (or rather his son of the same name, 1767- 1821- my 4th great grand uncle, whatever that means), I came across a fascinating entry in the Longham Parish Register which underlines how confusing it must have been in olden days- when was a Baldrick not a Baldrick? so to speak-

‘I have never been able to learn the real name of John Baldrick- sometimes he has been called Balthorpe at others Balderow or Baldrow & at other times Baldrick- As Baldrick was given in the first time I had reason to register his name, I have not thought proper to change it being doubtful of his real name. St. John, Curate’

A further entry on the same page suggests that this ancestor may have been of rather dubious character:

‘John Hubbard Labourer was killed by a Blow received in fighting with John Baldrick June 29th and was buried July 1st 1794- Parish poor – duty paid to Mr Barker’

My paternal Grandfather William Kiddle Boldero- and me!

My paternal Grandfather William Kiddle Boldero- and me!

I’ve also been fascinated by some of the distinctive middle names our ancestors were given. You may well be familiar with the custom of giving a child (more often than not the first born son) a middle name that’s the mother’s maiden name. Not to create the customary ‘double barrelled’ surname but in effect forming a second christian name. Some examples from the Boldero clan are:

William Kiddle Boldero (1888-1982- my grandfather),

William Orford Boldero (1821- 1899),

Richard Orford Boldero (1849- ?),

William Balls Bolderow (1844-1904) ,

John Casey Baldrick (1792-1792),

Charles  Cooper Baldrow (1844-1864),

Arthur Franklin Boldero (1904- 1984)

So, as you can see, being a Boldero/w/we/oe/Baldrick is not only a privilege, but in some ways poses a challenge to the family historian every much as difficult as for a family called Smith!

‘Gardening with Baldrick’enjoy this link!

Old School Gardener