Climbing Up The Vines

Vine Elizabeth Moden (1893-1980)There are a few strange names in my family tree – Yarrow, Moden, Tingey, Gotrop, Babbage and many more but none are quite as strange as the female firstname of Vine.

My Great Grandmother’s older sister was born as Vine Elizabeth Moden in Ely in 1893. She married a Frederick Newell of Ely, where she remained until her death in 1980. She has always been referred to as ‘Aunt Viney’ – but it has often occurred to me as to what a strange first name that is.

Often, strange names like Vine, are simply a maiden name of a maternal ancestor re-used – and I’ve seen them occur as middle names but rarely the first name. I decided that I should try and find out where the name Vine came from.

The 1870 birth certificate of Mary Ann Cross (Vine and my Great Grandmother’s mother), gave me their parents – George Cross and Vine Taylor. This was backed up by the Census returns for 1871 onwards. “Vines” Cross was the landlord of The Eagle and Lamb pub on Cambridge Road in Ely during 1899-1904, preceded by her husband George from 1892 until his death in 1898. The pub has long since been demolished (although I’d love to see a photo of it).

Having seen the census returns and found the burial entry in 1916’s Ely Cemetery for Vine Cross (née Taylor), I decided to try and find her birth certificate. However, no ‘Vine Taylor’ was indexed as registered in Cambridgeshire and searches at FindMyPast, the IGI and brought me no closer with their wider UK searches.

With Vine Taylor having been born in the 1850s and married with a 1yr old Mary Ann Cross by 1871, 1861 was to provide the clue I needed that would link Vine Taylor to a Taylor family… but, ah.. the flood. The critical record I needed was the one that was destroyed by flooding years ago.


Stuck until a chance comment on (where I post most of my awkward puzzles that magically get solved in hours) when a forum member suggested I tried variants of ‘Vine’ – real big strange variants – and that brought up a ‘Sabina Taylor‘ – born in Ely at about the right date (1852). Quite how you can go from Sabina to Vine in 10 easy steps, I’m not sure.. but I gave it a go and ordered ‘Sabina Taylor’s’ birth certificate. I soon found that Sabina was the illegitimate daughter of Susan Taylor of Cutter’s Yard, Ely and that she also bore the middle name of Steadman.

‘Susan’ linked nicely in with my tree too – with my Gt Grandmother and her deceased infant Aunt also having this name.

With another name thrown into the midst, I started tracing Susan Taylor, to see if Steadman or Vine played a role in her family tree… in a bid to confirm that this Sabina was the right person in my tree and if so, to then find the Vine link. I found no trace of Vine there, having found myself in the mid 1700s.

After browsing through marriage records, I stumbled across the marriage of Sabina’s mother to a William Steadman in Ely, in 1856. This made me feel certain that the ‘Steadman’ appearing on Sabina’s birth certificate was right – confirmed by this, their eventual marriage.

Still, no mention of Vine though…

…until I started looking at William Steadman’s ancestry (afterall, at that point in my research, I was quite enjoying the potentially ‘surrogate’ family). I soon found a baptism for William Steadman’s younger sister, and there it was…… Vinecrow Steadman. She was baptised on 13th August 1836 but lived only the age of 1 year.

Again, expecting to find that the mother of this Steadman family once used the maiden name of ‘Vine’, I was proven wrong. In 1829, James Steadman married Elizabeth Murfitt in Ely… but at second glance, there it was again.

Witness to the marriage was a Vine Steadman! the trail continues…….