19/09/2012 06:22 BST | Updated 18/11/2012 05:12 GMT

Coming Across Random Names in My Family Tree Research

Every so often in my family tree research I come across a seemingly random name hidden amongst the usual array of Titfords, Masseys and Stockers. Inevitably this leads to a bit of a detour, but quite often it can prove to be a rather fruitful journey. While searching for the Titford family in the 1881 census I came across Beatrice Nellie Titford who at four years old is recorded as staying at her aunt and uncle's house. Their surname, along with the surname of Beatrice's cousins, was listed as Pritchard.

I'd never heard of the Pritchards before and was somewhat intrigued to read that Andrew Goring Pritchard, the head of the household, was a solicitor and that the family had two servants living with them at the time. The Pritchards lived at Alwyne Place in Islington, London, and judging by the quick internet search I conducted of their address, the house they lived in would have been considered quite upmarket (where did all the money go?!)

My great great great grandfather Edmund Titford had a sister called Marianne who married Andrew Goring Pritchard, hence the Pritchard connection. The most interesting discovery I've made due to the Pritchard name relates to the death of a Titford nine years prior to the 1881 census, in December 1872. I stumbled upon a death record for a Sydney Titford alongside an entry in the National Probate Calendar detailing the amount of money he left in his will. One of the tricky aspects of ancestry tracing is that it can prove difficult at times to link the right people to your tree; I needed a way of proving that this Sydney Titford was definitely a relation, having never heard of him before.

Upon opening his probate record online I discovered that his will was overseen by none other than an Andrew G Pritchard, meaning I could be sure that the Sydney Titford in question was definitely a relation. I'll be writing a separate post on what I went on to find out about Sydney Titford and his family. It proved to be a moving and ultimately sad branch of family tree research.

Another name-related issue I've tackled recently is the mystery surrounding my double barrel surname, Bower-Massey. Although it's the official name given on my birth certificate, I've never used it. In 'real life', I'm simply a Massey. Unlike other peoples' double barrel surnames, which tend to be a combination of their mother's surname and father's surname, mine is a combination of my father's surname Massey and the rather random name Bower. No one has ever really been able to tell me where it came from, or more to the point, who it came from.

I was lumbered with it at birth and have had nothing but problems with it since! From passport applications to university-related documents to my recent attempt at opening a joint bank account for wedding savings, I always forget about the Bower part of my surname and attempt to go simply with Massey, which inevitably causes proof of identity nightmares. However, thanks to my family history research I've managed to determine where it came from and it turns out it doesn't even have a very long history.

My great Grandfather, Claude Massey, was given the middle name Bower upon birth. I can't find any mention of 'Bower' previous to his birth; it doesn't seem to thread through the family tree and so it must simply have been given as a middle name. Not as a surname; as a middle name. How I ended up with it as a surname is beyond me, but that's where it came from. As there doesn't seem to be any real reason behind it I don't feel bad about planning to drop it as soon as I'm married, if only to avoid further identity mix-ups.

From random surnames leading to discoveries of hidden ancestors, to unravelling the mystery of my very own name- who knows what else I'll uncover on my family tree journey?