Surname Saturday: The Crisp family

Today’s SURNAME SATURDAY themed post takes a look at the CRISP family of Cambridgeshire, and unravels an old family story.

Today’s Surname Saturday theme follows the CRISP family, and it’s also home to one of the earliest verbal family stories that I ever heard in my research, some 19 years back.

The story went something like this:

“Your great great great grandmother was married to a Mr Crisp. They had a son, and then Mr Crisp died. She remarried to your great great great Martin grandfather, and that’s where we descend from.

Their son, married a woman called Selina. They had a number of children, moved up north, and most caught measles. Mr Crisp Jnr and most of the children died. His widow Selina, returned and lived near Soham, Cambridgeshire.”

Fairly vague, and probably not an uncommon style of storytelling of family rumours. But, there’s some interesting story details in there, and considering that this would have happened so long ago, it’s interesting to see that it survived into living memory.. so there must be something in it, and someone who has reason to believe it, right?

Putting it on the back-burner, as it’s a ‘sideline’ family, from whom I don’t descend, I parked it for about 19yrs whilst I focussed on the addiction that is tracing ancestors.

I was tidying up some old files again, and a slip of paper summarising the story above fell out. In all those years, the amount of, and types of, records available online has absolutely snowballed, and so i thought that I would casually go rummaging.

Finding Crisps in the records

(Face it, you knew I was going to put that pun down here somewhere).

A photograph of Mary Crisp (née Tingey, later Martin and Watling), with copies of her marriage certificate to John Crisp, and the birth certificate of their only son, William Crisp.
A photograph of Mary Crisp (née Tingey, later Martin and Watling), with copies of her marriage certificate to John Crisp, and the birth certificate of their only son, William Crisp.

I already had Mr Crisp Jnr’s (William Crisp) birth certificate from 1846, and the marriage and death certificate of his father John Crisp (m: 1846, d: 1847). By July 1850, widow Mary Crisp (née Tingey) had married her second of three husbands – my great great great grandfather – James Martin.

William Crisp remains with his mother for the 1851 and 1861 censuses in Little Downham, at the household of his step-father. In fact, the 1861 census lists him as William Martin, rather than William Crisp.

Things get rectified by 1871, when his Crisp name is reinstated. Here, he’s living in the fenland parish of Isleham. This village isn’t far from Soham, and is not a parish that any of my other relatives appear to have passed through (hence having not stumbled across him before).

With the census found, it told me that he was now 24yrs old, living at Lark Farm Cottage, with his wife Tabitha, and their 2mth old son John (in memory of both of their fathers). A quick dig on Ancestry, and FreeBMD showed that Tabitha was most likely Tabitha Large.

Where was the Selina that the story had spoken of?

Another census shows the family at the West Bank of River Lark in the parish of Isleham, Cambridgeshire for 1881. William was ’30’, and heading up a family of 6 children (John, James, Rosetta, Eliza Ann, Susan, and Mary) with Tabitha.

However, by the 1891 he’s missing, and so is Tabitha. Was this the tragedy with measles?

The North?

A little further digging, and some of the Crisp children turned up – still living at West Bank, but this time, George Butcher is head of the household, with Tabitha (now Butcher). A young Alfred Butcher is also included in the household, born about 1890.

Next stop was the Isleham parish registers to find out what’s been going on.

Here, I find that Tabitha Large (confirmed!), and William Crisp, having married on 20th May 1869 at Isleham parish church, went on to have eight children between 1871 and 1886.

FreeBMD notes that William died in in 1886, but Isleham and Soham don’t contain his burial. I shall have to explore this further. His burial did not take place in his native Little Downham, Ely Cemetery, Wicken, Fordham, or a number of other nearby churchyards.

Having lost William for now, I continue after Tabitha, but I soon find that she’s missing too… only to find her in 1901, aged 47 years, up at 29 Charles Lane, Milnrow, Lancashire, England.

There’s that ‘move up North‘ then.

Into the mills

At this time, George is noted a labourer at a Brickyard. Tabitha’s son Isaac Crisp is noted as a ‘Cotton Presser’, Rosetta Crisp as a ‘Woolen Weaver’, Eliza Ann Crisp as a ‘Pattern Card Room Hand’, and Mary Crisp is noted as a ‘Bread Maker’. It’s possible that the children were employed at the nearby Ellenroad Mill. Clearly the mills were putting a roof over the family’s head.

By the time of the 1911 census, it’s revealed that Tabitha has had 4 children and that 3 of them died. This must surely refer to her children with George Butcher, but i’ve not yet checked for their names.

The Traveller’s Rest

Whilst I lose George after 1911 (was this the measles?), Tabitha ends her days back at  the aptly named ‘The Traveller’s Rest‘ in Towns End, Soham, Cambridgeshire on 29th June 1921. She was 69 years old. Why was she back there?

Well, her second child, James Crisp (known as ‘Jim’) is noted as Publican – presumably of The Traveller’s Rest. He is noted as an executor of her estate.

But what about Selina?

Twenty-five years before Tabitha’s death at James’ pub in Soham, he had walked the aisle on 17th October 1896…. when he married Selina Collen. Selina outlived James (who died in 1944), having raised a family of at least five children with him.

Unravel those stories and memories

So, what turned out to be a snippet of oral history, handed around and down my branch of Martin family, which is vaguely related to the Crisp family (William Crisp is apparently my Half Great Great Great Uncle!), it turns out to be loaded with facts… albeit somewhat jumbled.

There’s still a few loose ends – death certificates will, or newspaper articles might, reveal details of whether the measles story is true. The identity of Selina was also generation out, and the wrong bit of family went ‘up North’ – it was all in the story.

For me, it proves that those little oral snippets, or those scribbled notes, are just as important as those official records. In fact, they are often more interesting. Using official records to help untangle these family stories is the trick…. regardless of how long you take to start work on them!

Happy hunting!


Surname Saturday: TINGEY

Surname Saturday – TINGEY or TINGAY. A look at the Tingey surname in Cambridgeshire.

An unusual surname with seemingly disconnected family groups turns up in both my maternal and paternal families.

Mary Tingey (1821-187?)
Mary Tingey

The Tingey name turns up twice in my family tree. Once as ancestral in my paternal tree, and the other as a husband of a maternal great aunt.

My earliest record of a bona-fide Tingey ancestor is Ann Tingey, who appears at the parish church in Witcham, Cambridgeshire in 1769 where she went to baptise her illegitimate son Thomas.

By 1771 she had returned, to marry James Toll with whom she had at least two children.

Thomas remained in Witcham, where he married Mary Barber in 1794 and together they had three children – Robert, Elizabeth and Sarah. It appears that the family moved just a few miles away to Oxlode in 1841 – a tiny hamlet close to the village of Little Downham, Cambridgeshire – which is where they ended up by the time of the 1851 census.

Robert went on to marry Fanny Harrison and together they had a family of 12 children, with their oldest (Mary Tingey) being my ancestor, born in 1820.

Amongst family photographs is a photograph of Mary in later life. By the time that this photo was taken, she would have either have been Mary Martin, widow, or Mrs Mary Watling(ton). She was married a total of three times.

Another photograph is somewhat of a mystery – a carte de visite with the words ‘Aunt Tingey’ written on the back. It remains unclear as to whether this was an elderly maiden aunt, or a  wife of a Tingey uncle.

Aunt Tingey
The mystery ‘Aunt Tingey’

Other family groups

Whilst my own branch was busy living their lives and growing in the Little Downham area of Cambridgeshire, just four miles away in Ely appears to be another family group which I’ve never found a connection to.

Another group of Tingeys appear in Henlow, Bedfordshire. For many years I have been in correspondence with another researcher – but as yet there appears to be no link between the family groups. According to the researcher, there are many gravestones for Tingey name-bearers standing in the parish churchyard.

This unusual surname does have a few variants through the years – ranging from: Tingey, Tingay, Tingye, Tangye, Tyngy Tyngie.

Origins of the name

According to John Ayto’s ‘Encyclopedia of Surnames’, Tingey/Tingay are derivative of Tangye. He says that:

“Tangye from the Breton personal name Tanguy, a contracted form of Tanneguy, literally ‘fire-dog’.”

According to The House Of

“First found in Cambridgeshire where the name first appeared in the early 13th century.”

It’s All In The Name

Now there are some seriously odd names around aren’t there? Peaches Geldof, Apple Martin, Princess Tiaamii Andre, Blanket Jackson and Moon Unit. These are all names of celebrity offspring but it’s not just modern-day children who have fallen foul of odd sounding names.

Here’s a few of my favourite/oddest sounding names from my own family:

I know that you can probably do better, so leave your REAL ancestor names (with links?) in the comments section.