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 Names.com:

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

WANTED: Dead Or Alive

Killing off your relatives is a crucial part of your work…. as a genealogist, not as a marauding tyrant.

I’m hoping that aside from in genealogy, that there’s nowhere else where the mark of a successful day is one where you’ve killed off a load of your relatives.

Anyone tracing their family tree is sure to stumbled across at least one elusive relative at some point in their research. That relative will cause them to spend many hours following potential leads and plenty of head scratching and brow creasing before either solving or putting it off until a rainier day.

This is a routine I know well.

Help! My Grandmother was a zombie

William Yarrow and his wife Elizabeth
Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) seems to have died and been buried more than once.

I’ve recently struggled to kill off a maternal 4x Great Grandmother called Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright), who appears to have died twice (about 2yrs apart) and been buried – in neighbouring parishes (!). Her death(s) fall right at the start of Death Certification in England and Wales. One of them is even noted as being in London and that her body was carried back on the train.

However, there’s seemingly no death certificate for her (the only one that matched in name turned out to be a baby), and parish records and the gravestone all contradict eachother.

The hidden Grandparents and Uncle

I’m currently struggling to find a my paternal Gtx4 Grandparents John Levitt with Elizabeth (née Skeel), and one of their sons Richard Skeel Levitt, during the 1871 census. I can find the rest of their children, but for some reason in 1871 they vanish.

I have them living in the same parish in all the censuses before and after this particular one. So, did they elude the enumerator? Were they away somewhere? – and if so, why don’t they appear somewhere else?

The surname has many variants but having done some pretty vague searches and very specific ones too, they remain elusive. Richard never married and seems to stick with his parents until their death, after which he goes to live with his other unmarried brother. It’s odd that all three seem to be missing.

The Serial Bride

Mary Watlington (formerly Martin, formerly Crisp, née Tingey)
Mary Watlington (formerly Martin, formerly Crisp, née Tingey)

Okay, to be fair, three marriages is probably nothing compared to some, but Mary Tingey surprised me. Born in 1820, she married to John Crisp in 1846. He died soon after their son was born. Within 4 years she had remarried to widower James Martin (my Gtx3 Grandfather) in 1850 and the following year they started their own family. After 5 children – with seemingly just one surviving (my ancestor) tuberculosis and scarlet fever, and then the tragic train accident that claimed her husband, Mary lived alone as a widow.  I’d hunted for her death for some time, but the searches were unsuccessful.

I hadn’t considered that instead of being buried somewhere out of step with the rest of her family or that she had been recorded for some reason under an earlier name, that she had remarried. One evening I stumbled across the marriage in 1877 with 57yr old widow Mary Martin, formerly Crisp (née Tingey) becoming the second Mrs Matthew Watlington. To add to the confusion, the new surname occasionally appears as Watling.

Check, check, check and then cross-check…. again…

These are just three of several situations where I’ve struggled to solve a puzzle. Whilst I know that checking and cross-checking is absolutely crucial to accurately recording your genealogy, it can be all too easy to accept even documentation and gravestones of the time as being accurate.

I’d like to say that I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way… but I say that every time it happens.