Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wiped-out generation

In my recent post entitled Latest deductions from Skyvington research [display], I explained that I've been grouping together all the Mormon references concerning surnames such as Skeffington, Skevington, Skivington, etc, and painstakingly sorting them by year. The immediate goal of all this work is to home in on individuals who might have been the immediate ancestors of my earliest clearly-identified patriarch: George Skivington, born in Belchalwell (Dorset) in 1670. I've often imagined that there might have been some kind of rupture not long before the birth of this "Belchalwell George" (as I call him). On the one hand, George's parents had no doubt moved to Dorset from a neighboring region. And, in so doing, they had probably replaced the old Skevington spelling by Skivington. Since George was a relatively uncommon given name in 17th-century England, I would imagine that my "Belchalwell George" probably descended from a family context in which that name existed already. Now, that set of likely constraints helps to narrow down the domain in which I'm searching.



In my article of 15 August 2007 entitled Midland ancestors [display], I spoke of my excursion to a charming little town called Turvey in Bedfordshire, which was the home of a big family named Skevington in the second half of the 16th century. I've always been persuaded that these folk were the ancestors of my "Belchalwell George", and this is my main line of research at present. Besides, there were Turvey individuals named George Skevington. Finally, at the end of my recent processing, when I was able to sort all the Skevington records by date, I was surprised to discover a big packet of Skevington burial records in Turvey for the year 1608. It's a finding that would have never struck me previously, when I was dealing with records in a casual manner. It was only when I had grouped together all existing records, and sorted them, that this observation suddenly hit me in the face.


Clearly, for almost an entire generation of a family to be wiped out in the space of a single year, there was only one possible explanation: the Black Death, or bubonic plague. I spoke already, in my article entitled Dressing up [display], of the beak outfit worn by plague physicians in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I have reasons to believe that this plague calamity played a role in causing a handful of young Skevington survivors to move away from Turvey, maybe down towards Dorset. And, in so doing, their links with the past were no doubt weakened. In the turmoil of this upheaval, it would not have been unusual that the spelling of our ancestral name should change, in certain cases, from Skevington to Skivington.

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