And yet more astonishing finds!

11 December 2014

Having checked out the reindeers yesterday, today I moved on to the elves in Santa’s workshop who make the toys, take care of the reindeer and do other important tasks. I do like to have some ‘fun with breakfast’, putting odd words into Ancestry, FindmyPast, Trove, FamilySearch and other sites to see what astonishing things surface….

Elf, as a first name, was more prevalent in the Bethnal Green and Lambeth areas in the late Victorian times. The 1901 England and Wales census shows 10 people with Elf as a forename and 1 person with it as a middle name. Elf Doubleday is my particular favourite – born in 1897 in Bethnal Green and living with his aunt and uncle, James and Sarah Squires, in Newington. Now, I am aware of the name Elfreda (and variant spellings) so female Elf characters I was not too fussed about but male ones? Where does the name come from?

Searching Scandinavian online sources – Sweden, Finland, Norway … – Elf is more common as a first name than the smattering found in our English and Welsh censuses over the years. But I did find it odd that it is very hard to track one Elf from one census through to the next…. What happened to Elf Doubleday after his brief appearance in 1901?

As a surname in 1881, there were just five uses of Elf, seemingly in two separate (possibly family) units – one in Blackburn and one in Horncastle:


Thanks Steve Archer for this amazing piece of software (Surname Atlas) designed to map forenames and surnames in the 1881 census – no Reindeers though! Elves is far more common as a surname with 92 name bearers across various counties from Durham in the North East of England to East Anglia and Middlesex:


I wonder: where were the Pixies? …. the fairies? Another day ….

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

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