My 5th great grandparents Sarah Osment and John Smyth married on 13 Jul 1764 at Stoke Damerel, Devon.

The ten children I have for them, who appear to have all been christened in or near London, appear to have been named:

  • John Osment (1766 – 1767),
  • Sarah Osment (1768 – 1831),
  • Elizabeth (1771 – 1809),
  • William (1773 – 1817),
  • Robert Osment (1774 – 1836),
  • Mary (1778 – 1799),
  • Thomas (1780 – ?),
  • James Osment (1783 – 1803),
  • Rebecca Osment (1785 – 1829) and
  • Jemima Osment (1787 – 1817)

I have always found it curious that some had their mother's surname as their second name while others did not, but I had put it down to the sketchy records, and more or less assumed that they all did have it (just that it was not always recorded).

John wrote his Will on 27 Aug 1804 and I have just seen a transcription of it. All of the children alive at the time were mentioned and are named with or without the Osment second name as per the above list so it really does seem like some had it and others did not.

I have a theory for which it is hard to find evidence yet, because I do not know the previous generation for either Sarah Osment or John Smyth. My theory is that the Osment second name was given when the child was named after someone from the Osment family.

I think Sarah Osment may have come from Devon (around Plymouth) but have less clues as to whether John Smyth did too. My understanding is that their burials at Bunhill Fields suggest strongly that they were Dissenters.

Has anybody come across examples where this naming pattern of ...

"wife's surname used as second name to indicate child named after someone from her family"

... has been used?

I recently used Find My Past to discover that Sarah Osment was baptised on 27 Jan 1743 at Plymouth Charles, Devon with parents Robert Osment and Elizabeth. Her only siblings appear to have been: John (1738), Robert (1742) and Rebecca (1745). It looks like four of the six children given the Osment name can be accounted for by the naming convention I originally suggested. However, I have not yet located a Jemima or a James.

As an aside, the eldest daughter of Sarah Osment and John Smyth, Sarah Osment Smyth married John Stacy (my 4th great grandparents). All eleven of their children were given her maiden name Smyth as their middle name.

  • In the 19th century, in my husband's Devon family, I see a different pattern, where some children apparently have three (given) names. I haven't examined this closely because the full names are not always recorded. Your question inspires me to pay more attention to what evidence I have.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jun 11, 2014 at 12:53
  • @PolyGeo Have you looked for people belonging to the previous generation who might fit as the namesakes for these children?
    – bgwiehle
    Jun 11, 2014 at 13:37
  • @bgwiehle I've updated my Question to include what I have found in that regard.
    – PolyGeo
    Jun 11, 2014 at 21:17
  • It's also possible (though costly) to buy packages of credits at Find My Past (be sure to download what you find because the images are only available for 90 days). I recommend signing up for their newsletter - last month I got a promotional code in email for a month's sub for one pound. With that promotion, when the month ran out, my sub expired, so there was no need to call and cancel (unlike Ancestry). The Lost Cousins newsletter is another way to get a deal on a Find My Past sub; there are frequent offers to get a discount on FMP if you sign up for Lost Cousins.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jun 12, 2014 at 16:48
  • My advice: keep a to-do list of things that you need to access via Find My Past, so that if you see a promotion, you'll be ready.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jun 12, 2014 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


It's very common for at least one child to have the mother's maiden name as a middle - it's a way of preserving a name that might otherwise be lost.

I can't see I've ever seen a case where quite so many children have been given their mother's maiden name as a middle name before though!

It can certainly be very useful in confirming that you've got the right person, if you find that they have a child with a middle name that matches what you think is their maiden name. It can even be enough to make me start searching for a link sometimes - if I find an Unwin with Denby as a middle name then I'm going to start looking for a relationship as that was passed down through many generations as a middle name.

As to your theory that in this case it was used where the first name was taken from the side of the family... Well you may well be right but I imagine it will be hard to ever know for sure. Just be glad that all those children are going to be relatively easy to trace because of their unusual middle name!

  • I've seen many examples where one or two, or all children get their mother's maiden name just not a 60:40 split on so many children. In this case I think it may allow me to expect to find a Robert, James, Rebecca and Jemima amongst Sarah's family.
    – PolyGeo
    Jun 11, 2014 at 12:14

My ancestor ROBERT OSMENT born 1742 married Mary Gloipen from Yealmpton 12 Jan 1765. ROBERT's daughter was CAROLINE JANE OSMENT. She moved to London and married JOHN BEARD. Some of the children had the OSMENT middle name.

Returning to ROBERT His parents were Robert and Eliza.

ROBERT OSMENT father of Robert, was born in 1703 and baptised on 8 March, dying possibly on 6 May 1756. His brother JOHN was baptised on 25 May 1697.

ROBERT's father was JOHN OSMENT and his mother THOMAZIN PENNY married 21 July 1696 in Plymouth.

This whole family came from PLYMOUTH parish of CHARLES. They appear to have been labourers, they did not own anything. They lived in Higher Street, Charles at some point.

  • Hello, Janet, welcome to G&FH.SE!
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 21, 2014 at 18:20
  • Welcome to G&FH SE! It is great to get that information that looks like it fits with and fills gaps in my tree. As a cross check I will do what I can to try and verify it independently too. To make your answer more tightly fit the question, would it be possible for you to include the names of John and Caroline Beard's children by using the edit button beneath it? You say "Some of the children had the OSMENT middle name" and I would be very keen to see if they are the ones with first names that seem to come from the Osment family.
    – PolyGeo
    Dec 21, 2014 at 23:06

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