Surname Saturday: Ong


This Saturday we’re on the trail of the unusual surname of Ong.

The earliest reference that I can find for my Ong family, is the first marriage of my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Thomas Ong to his first wife Martha Jennings in Stuntney, Cambridgeshire in April 1757.

Illustration of Stuntney church, Cambridgeshire (1806)

Stuntney parish church, 1806.

I’ve not found any earlier record for him, but estimating his birth to have been in the 1730s, I have found a few potential matches via familysearch.org in the neighbouring county of Suffolk in its villages of Hepworth and Hinderclay – themselves neighbouring parishes.

Martha was already heavily pregnant when she walked the aisle with Thomas, and they soon welcomed their first son – John Ong – into the family, with him being baptised at Stuntney just four months later.

The couple and their baby shift from Stuntney, to the nearby Ely which it overlooks. Sadly, this happiness was to be short-lived, and Thomas’ luck was going to take a long-running bad turn.

Within seven years, Thomas had lost his wife Martha (d. August 1764), and three sons: John (1757-1758), Thomas (1760-1764) and John (1763). No doubt deep in grief, a widower, and childless, he vanishes for 9 years, returning to parish registers in 1766 at Ely.

In January 1766, he marries spinster Martha Feast, and they are joined by their first child Mary. Sadly, Thomas’ bad luck continues – claiming the lives of their first three children: Mary (1767-1769), Thomas (1769-1773) and John (1772-1773).

It’s not until Thomas’ 7th child (and Martha’s 4th) – Mary Ong – born in 1774, that a child survives into adulthood. Mary was to live until she was 85, and is my Great x 4 Grandmother.

Thomas and Martha continue to grow their family with another 4 children: Martha (1776-?), Thomas (1778-1781), Margaret (1780-?) and Thomas (1783).

Whilst it’s unclear as to what became of Mary’s siblings Martha and Margaret, Mary seems to be the only child of 10 to survive – perhaps accounting for the rarity of the Ong surname.

Mary goes on to thrive – marrying my Great x4 Grandfather Thomas Cross in Ely in 1790, and bearing 14 children (only 3 of whom are known to have died as children).

Mary outlived her husband Thomas Cross by 13 years, dying in February 1859, aged 85.

Variants of Ong

I’ve only spotted two versions of the surname whilst rummaging in the records of Ely and nearby Stuntney.

  • Ong – the main version
  • Ing – making one occurrence

However, the surname is so infrequent, that I am suspicious. Only one other ‘Ong’ appears, and as yet, she (Margaret Ong) remains unconnected – but probably the sister of my Gtx5 Grandfather Thomas. At the same time, and in both Ely and Stuntney, are rather a lot of parish register entries for the Long and Young families, and so with little imagination and some illiteracy, you could easily lose a letter or two, throw in an thick rural fenland accent, and you’re soon staring at an ‘Ong’ in a parish register.

About Andrew Martin

+Andrew Martin is owner and lead writer for History Repeating and Family Tree UK. Genealogist, historian, writer, photographer and would-be archaeologist. He'd love a time machine, but worries that it might take all the fun out of it.
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2 Responses to Surname Saturday: Ong

  1. MICHAEL BALDWIN says:

    Ong is certainly unusual but at least easier to track. I am also descended from Thomas Cross and the huge number of Cross and Lee – often with same Christian names are confusing, especially with the practice that if a child dies the next one of the same sex is given the same name – I was confused as to when Mary Ong was born. Thanks for sorting this Martin.

  2. Hello Michael,

    Yes, i’m familiar with the combined Cross and Lee genealogy – Lee seems to turn up in the Ely registers a few times as a middle name for a few generations of children.

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