In the 1861 parish baptism record for a probable distant ancestor of mine it gives the parent surname for the baptism of Mary as "NORWOOD alias DOBBS". What precisely does this mean? I guess someone is illegitimate here but I'm not sure who.

From other data I'm fairly sure that the father's name is DOBBS. Mary's GRO birth entry names her as Mary NORWOOD,and in her GRO marriage entry as Mary Norwood DOBBS.

In the 1840 baptism record of the father's sister Jane, the parent surname is entered as "NORWOOD (DOBBS)", which presumably also implies "alias", and suggests that the illegitimacy covers more than one generation.

I can find no record of a marriage between Mary's parents in the GRO, and I have not checked the parish records as they are not online.

  • Hello ceperman & welcome. I've added a link to the baptism entry. However I was just looking for the entry of the birth in the GRO index, but was unable to find it. I can only see a Mary Ann Norwood born in 1861 and died 1875 (age 15) in Glanford Brigg district, who obviously can't be your Mary.
    – Harry V.
    Jul 17, 2015 at 12:37
  • That the aunt had the same alias surnames and was also illegitimate would be a big coincidence. Was she older or younger than the Dobbs father of your Mary? (If younger, wouldn't he be illegimate too?). An alternate explanation (common in my German maternal ancestry) is the use of alias to flag a surname change or to distinguish between branches of a large family with a common (for the area) surname.
    – bgwiehle
    Jul 17, 2015 at 13:26
  • Sorry guys, I've mixed this up a bit with all the info I've collected. The marriage entry is for Jane Norwood DOBBS, not Mary. So @vervet, yes, I think this is "my" Mary - I have her PR burial record as 19 June 1876.
    – ceperman
    Jul 17, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    @bgwiehle there's a lot more to be said about what I've found re. the Norwoods and Dobbs in the parish records, but I'm not sure it's appropriate to try and lay it out here. I've tried to limit my questions to one at a time :) hence the specific question re. "alias". I'm sure this will lead to more questions. But to answer your question: Jane is the youngest of a number of siblings, and the only one with "Norwood (Dobbs)" as the parent surname; the other are recorded as just plain Dobbs.
    – ceperman
    Jul 17, 2015 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


As I understand it an "alias" in a parish register means exactly what you would expect it to mean - that the person is commonly known by more than one name.

It's relatively unusual to see it in a register that late - it's more common in earlier ones though I'm not really sure why, or what might typically cause a person to be known by more than one name.

  • I have an 1879 baptism of "James Griffiths alias Maddocks". In this instance his father was married twice. "Unfortunately" his first wife was still alive at the time of his 2nd marriage, so the names were changed to avoid attention. Curiously, having done that, he still used both names - some censuses were under "Maddocks" and some under "Griffiths". Clearly the church knew of both names and so referred to both.
    – AdrianB38
    Jul 18, 2015 at 12:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.