Sunday, June 3, 2012

A is for...

TheFamily History through the Alphabetchallenge, as set out by Gould Genealogy

I have wanted to join this challenge for a while now, though illness has prevented me from participation so far. As soon as I saw this challenge, I knew what I wanted to do – NAMES; the meaning of the names of my ancestors, those names that are carried through the generations, and the names of those ancestors who are special to me.

So for my first attempt – A is for Agnes  

Agnes is a female given name, which derives from the Greek name γν hagnē, meaning "pure" or "holy". The Latinized form of the Greek name is Hagnes, the feminine form of Αγνός Hagnos, meaning "chaste" or "sacred". The name passed to Italian as Agnese, to Portuguese as Inês, and to Spanish, as Inés.
It was the name of a popular Christian saint, Saint Agnes of Rome, a fact which encouraged the wide use of the name. Agnes was the third most popular name for women in the English speaking world for more than 400 years. Its medieval pronunciation was "Annis," and its usage and many of its forms coincided with the equally popular English name Anne, a name related in medieval and Elizabethan times to 'Agnes', though Anne/Ann/Anna are derived from the Hebrew Hannah ('God favoured me') rather than the Greek.
The true Scottish version of Agnes is Segna, which comes from a Scottish custom of spelling a name backwards
Source: Wikipedia

Agnes is a name carried through many, many generations of my paternal Scottish line. The last woman to carry this given name was my Great Grandmother, Agnes Jane. Though her father was English, the tradition had been carried on from her mother’s Scottish heritage.  There are a few recent usages of Agnes as a second name in my family, but I am not taking that usage into account, as in Anne Agnes, my 8x Great Grandmother or my second cousin, Janet Agnes.

Though not a traditional Celtic name, my database has at least 18 women named Agnes – all from Scotland, with earliest known birth date of 1705. In one sense, the keeping of the tradition in naming patterns has helped enormously with following the Scottish family lines.

Agnes Jane (1860-1933) was an amazingly strong woman; losing her husband and two children to diphtheria in 1895 which was discussed in my post "The Death of William Smith : A Pitiful Story", raising the remaining 5 (or possibly 6 as I am currently investigating whether she was pregnant on her husband’s death) children alone – unusually, she did not remarry; Watching her adult daughter, her daughter-in-law, her sister-in-law, and three grandchildren die before her, while raising many of these orphaned grandchildren (which included my father and his siblings) as well. It was a tough life in the New England Tablelands of NSW, and I really wish I could have known this strong Great Grandmother of mine.

From the Glen Innes Examiner 22 August 1933


  1. What a great newspaper notice. When you are researching SMITH, you must be extra grateful for all those details. ;-)

    1. Hi Judy,

      The newspaper obituary is something I value highly, but even there they often get the details wrong. Mrs A. Sullivan (Ethel May Smith) actually died in 1927, pre-deceasing her mother by 6 years, not the 3 as mentioned in the article - so, just as a caution "Never believe everything you read"! In the last month or so, I have been in contact with her grandson, who has helped me considerably with details - I was not even aware that she had children, and I don't think my Dad ever knew he had a cousin living so close by

      PS I re-read my post, and found it lacking (in my mind) so have updated it a bit. I am probably still not well enough to be writing or at least posting my ramblings at this point in time, but will try and persevere with this challenge regardless

  2. Linda, you've done a wonderful post. And 18 Agnes's in your family wow! I'm agree Judy, the obituary is something very special to have :)

  3. Linda,

    Sending wishes for a speedy recovery. Enjoyed reading about all those Agnes's.

    Cheers, Jill