M*CH*MORE One Name Study

M*ch*more as a middle name

by Mike Mitchelmore


Last revised 4 May 2015

In the 19th century in England, children were often given their mother's maiden name as a middle name. Unmarried mothers sometimes gave their children the father's surname as a middle name, and sometimes a respected friend might be honoured in the same way. We call a surname used as a middle name a surmid.

To date, 284 people with a M*ch*more surmid have been found. Their vital data (apart from 7 people who may still be alive) are included on this web site and an index is available here. In this paper, we consider the origin and distribution of these 256 people.

When and where did M*ch*more surmids occur?

The earliest birth for a person with a M*ch*more surmid was 1762 and the latest was 200. The custom did not really take off until the 1810s, reached a peak in the 1850s, and died off again at the turn of the century. Nearly 90% of the surmids were given between 1810 and 1909, with only 7 given after 1940.

The majority of the M*ch*more surmids (69%) occurred in families which originated in Devon. This is not surprising, since most M*CH*MOREs also have their origin in Devon. All but 25 were given to children born in England.

There was a surprising gender bias in the surmids: Almost twice as many were given to sons as daughters (177 vs 107) . The reason for this tendency is a mystery.

In which trees did they occur?

We have been able to locate most of the cases (77%) in families in the reconstructed trees (167 cases) or subtrees (51). There were cases in every tree except Tree 15. The most prolific was Tree 05, which contains 28 people with M*ch*more surmids, followed closely by Trees 17 and 18, each with 21 surmids.

The remaining 72 cases have been collected together into four "unlinked trees": Tree 900 for 47 cases in families originating in Devon, Tree 901 for 2 cases from Cornwall, Tree 902 for 6 cases from the rest of England, Tree 903 for 6 cases from Australia and New Zealand, and Tree 904 for 5 cases from North America (including one case where Mitchelmore was the first name).

Did they tend to run in families?

Very few parents gave a M*ch*more surmid to more than one or two of their children. A marked exception was Harriet TOZER née MICHELMORE, who named five of her children (including a pair of twins) in this way. She also found a novel way of naming her twins: one was called Ann Mary Michelmore TOZER and the other Mary Ann Michelmore TOZER.

 However, the M*ch*more surmid did tend to become a tradition in a few M*CH*MORE families, being passed on from generation to generation. The 218 cases whose families have been identified come from only 91 families and over 80% of these families contain only 1, 2 or 3 surmids. However, the descendants of William MITCHELMORE include 13 surmids and the descendants of John MITCHELMORE include no less than 17 M*ch*more surmids, in both cases spread over 3 generations.

Where did they come from?

The most common origin of the surmid (75% of the 272 cases where the mother could be identified) was a female ancestor: the mother (131 cases), a grandmother (65) or a great grandmother (16). There is even one case where the origin was a great great grandmother: Ann, daughter of Robert MICHELMORE of Buckfastleigh, did not give any of her children a M*ch*more surmid but her daughter Elizabeth PRINN had descendants called John Michelmore PEEKE in three successive generations. In a few cases, a child was given two surmids derived from different female ancestors. For example, Thomas Bovey Mitchelmore BROWNING was a son of Fanny Michelmore BOVEY (granddaughter of Mary MICHELMORE) and William BROWNING. Note that, when a person's surname occurred as a surmid  in a grandchild or later generations, it was as often as not passed on from the previous generation.

There are 13 cases where an illegitimate child was given a M*ch*more surmid but no father's name was recorded. In two cases, Peter Muchmore COLE and Anne Mitchelmore PETHERBRIDGE, it is clear from a marriage that took place shortly afterwards that the surmid was the father's surname.1 It seems safe to conclude that each of the other 11 "base children" had a M*CH*MORE father.

There are 13 cases where the surnames of at least three grandparents are known and none of them is a M*CH*MORE. It seems most unlikely that the origin of these surmids was a blood relation. In 7 of these 13 cases, the surmid appears to honour a male relation by marriage or adoption:

  • Florence Gertrude ELMORE was baptised after she had married Arthur Frederick MICHELMORE, when she gave her name as Florence Gertrude Michelmore ELMORE.
  • William Henry NEWSON was renamed William MITCHELMORE after he was adopted by Robert MITCHELMORE, but he later changed his name to William Mitchelmore NEWSON.

In the other 6 cases, the origin of the surmid seems to be an honoured friend:

In 6 cases, it is known that neither grandmother was a M*CH*MORE. The origin of these surmids was most likely an honoured M*CH*MORE relative or acquaintance. In a further 25 cases, nothing is known about the grandparents, so the origin could also have been a maternal grandmother. In the remaining 14 cases, neither parent has been identified so it is impossible to conjecture the origin of the surmid.  Investigations are continuing in an attempt to identify the origin of the surmid in these 45 persons.

1A similar case is that of Betsy Kellond MITCHELMORE, recorded in the baptism register as the illegitimate daughter of Mary MITCHELMORE and James KELLOND. She became known as Betsy KELLOND after their marriage a few months later. Another interesting case is that of George Michelmore Creber BARTER, an illegitimate son of Alice BARTER and (we assume) George Michelmore CREBER. When he married, he was indexed as both George Michelmore BARTER and George Michelmore CREBER-BARTER. Shortly afterwards, he apparently re-registered his birth under the name George Michelmore BARTER and never used the Creber surmid again. Elizabeth MITCHELMORE found another way of naming the father: She bore a daughter to Samuel COYDE more than a year before they were married but registered her as Mary Elizabeth Mitchelmore COYDE. Presumably fathers had to give their consent to their surnames being used either as a surmid or a surname for an illegitimate child.