• Sarah von Allmen

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 24.

Week 24 – Popular name.


I imagine that like me, most family historians have found themselves at some point sighing at the lack of originality in the names our ancestors gave to their children. When these are combined with a common surname, sorting out individual families can be a real headache – for instance, if the five sons of William Smith each name a child after their father and this is passed on to the next generation, you rapidly end up with multiple cousins of a similar age in the same area.


Mum’s family has many generations of some of the most popular English names: William, Thomas and John for boys; Elizabeth, Mary and Ann for girls. For my husband’s Swiss in the canton of Bern it was different names but the same principle, and each generation had its Ullrich, Peter and Christian for boys; Elisabetha, Catharina and Magdalena for girls.


Strangely, two separate branches of my English family adopted the same unusual name out of the blue and continued to use it for several generations: that name is Ambrose.


1. Beckett family


My 6x great-grandfather John Beckett and his wife Sarah Dudleston had three known children: the first two were given the names John and Samuel (the name of Sarah’s father), but the third was Ambrose – a name found nowhere else in the early generations of this family. The name was passed down from father to son for 6 generations as follows:


Ambrose Beckett – baptised 6 October 1739, Whitchurch, Shropshire. (3rd of 3 children)

Ambrose Beckett – baptised 25 February 1785, Ightfield, Shropshire. (11th of 12 children)

Ambrose Beckett – baptised 8 July 1827, Ightfield, Shropshire. (9th of 9 children)

Ambrose Beckett – birth registered Q2 1851, West Bromwich, Staffordshire. (2nd of 5 children)

Ambrose Beckett – born 6 July 1880, Silverdale, Staffordshire. (2nd of 13 children)

Ambrose Beckett – birth registered Q1 1904, Hyde Cheshire. (3rd of 4 children; died in infancy)

Ambrose Beckett – birth registered Q3 1914, Stockport, Cheshire. (Half-brother of the above)


Other children also passed on the name, and in all I have I have no less than eighteen Ambrose Becketts in my tree.


2. Goodwin family


In my branch of the Goodwin family the name Ambrose also appears from nowhere, but in their case, it was invariably used as a middle name. My 4x great-grandfather Edward Goodwin and his wife Mary Hancox called their second child (and first son) John Ambrose, and when he died in infancy they gave the same name to their next child, my 3x great-grandfather. The name was maintained for several generations:


1. John Ambrose Goodwin – baptised 22 May 1821, Bridgnorth, Shropshire. (Died young)

2. John Ambrose Goodwin – baptised 7 August 1822, Bridgnorth, Shropshire.


3. John Ambrose Goodwin – baptised 17 November, Bridgnorth, Shropshire. (Son of #2)

4. Jeremiah Ambrose Goodwin – birth registered Q1 1858, Wolverhampton. (Son of #2)


5. John Ambrose Goodwin – born 3 December 1872, Wolverhampton. (Son of #3)

6. Thomas Ambrose Goodwin – born 11 November 1880, Manchester. (Son of #3)


7. John Ambrose Goodwin – born 28 June 1902, Manchester. (Son of #5)

8. Thomas Ambrose Goodwin – born 25 November 1904, Manchester. (Son of #6)

9. John Ambrose Goodwin – birth registered Q4 1906, Manchester. (Son of #6)


I originally hoped that the name might be a clue which could help me find more on Mary Hancox’s side of the family, but to date I have found no connection whatsoever, and just like the Becketts, the origins of Ambrose remain a mystery.

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