Way Back Wednesday: G is for Gentleman

July 27, 2016

Gasp! G is not for Genealogy!

Are any of the members of your Surname Study gentlemen?  It can have a special meaning, not just the modern-day one of a man with nice manners.  It came about in the fifteenth century as being a status between a baron and a yeoman.  But from the sixteenth century, it was more about what you did and did not do.  A 'gentleman' did not work with his hands (so he had servants) but a yeoman's servants were more like his farm assistants.  Army and naval officers were viewed as 'gentlemen', as were barristers. 

If you are searching in parish registers for your name, you may well come across entries like this: "Mr James Blagdon and Mestres Anna Ford were maryed this day".  'Mr' really meant something.  A woman being called 'Mrs' or 'Mestres' didn't necessarily mean she was married or a widow.  It usually meant she was the daughter of a gentleman.  Even the handwriting of the clerk may suddenly become large and beautifully flourished and decorated when dealing with a member of the local gentry.

And where there was a gentleman or gentlewoman, there might also be an estate, a Will, servants, other employees, charitable donations - all sorts!

Next week's letter is 'H'. We will be delighted to hear from Ed Toovey, one of our registered Surname Studiers.   Please send future surname-study-snippets to me at sos [at] surname-society.org

© Ros Haywood
School of Surnames

letter G courtesy of openclipart.org

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