It’s strange how these things work. It only takes a couple of individuals to insist on doing a certain thing in a certain way and before you know it the original reasons are forgotten or lost in the mist of time and suddenly we’ve a ‘tradition’ on our hands That seems to have been the case on our particular branch of the Yelf tree with the middle name of ‘Amor’ (and that’s to rhyme with door not the French word for love!). It’s been around for a few generations now. It’s my son’s middle name and was also that of my youngest brother. The name missed my father but was the middle name of my grandfather and my great-grandfather before him. I had always wondered where it had come from and why I felt obliged to pass it down the genetic line like a hot potato, so I was intrigued when I saw a copy of Frank Amor William Yelf’s Birth Certificate of 1864. Did that elegant copperplate writing say Amor or (as it looked to me) Amos? Had generations of Yelfs named themselves after a spelling mistake? When I thought about it this didn’t really seem likely but I didn’t think to pay it much more attention until a month or two ago when I received an email from Carole Cumber in Canada.
Carole has being doing large amounts of research on the Yelf name and as it happens she is also from our ‘Amor’ branch of the family. She had obviously decided to look a little deeper and had succeeded in uncovering the origins of the Amor middle name and the results were far more interesting than a simple spelling mistake.
To summarise Carole’s findings (and it really is a summary, as Carole has much supporting documentation) we have to go to back to Salisbury in Wiltshire in the 1830’s where Francis WILLIAMS married Eliza AMOR. They eventually had seven children, Eliza, Francis, Catherine (‘Kate’), Maria, Emma, Henry and Mary. In the 1841 census they are still living in Salisbury but the 1851 census shows them living at ‘Above Bar’ in Southampton, Hampshire. But this is not the only change to the family’s circumstances obvious from the return. It seems that the pressure of having so many mouths to feed led the family to the fairly drastic step of asking Eliza’s sister, Maria AMOR, to take in the older children. Maria was a shoemaker living in Salisbury who employed a couple of workers in her business. She was single and obviously happy to take in her sister’s children as the 1851 census shows that Francis, Kate and Maria are all living with her whilst still attending the local Salisbury school. Presumably on completion of their education the children returned to their parents in Southampton.
The WILLIAMS family were not the only ones living at ‘Above Bar’ at this time – the YELF family were also living in the same area of Southampton and, as these things go, Catherine (Kate) WILLIAMS married her near neighbour Robert YELF. In 1864 they had a son called Frank Amor William YELF who might now possibly be seen to have been named for the following reasons - Frank (Possibly a version of Francis?) Amor (after the aunt who had been so important to Catherine?) William (a traditional Yelf name, but also near enough Catherine’s maiden name) Yelf (father’s name). Of those it is interesting that it is the Amor that has come down to the present day and become a family tradition, presumably because of its unusualness. None of us had an inkling that it was all due to the kindness of a maiden aunt who made shoes for a living but for what its worth my twelve year old Amor-named son seemed quite pleased with the result of all Carole’s hard work!