Alas Smith and Jones

27 March 2016

…. not my idea! In fact, it was the brainchild of two British comedians, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. A British television comedy sketch, it ran initially on BBC2 in the 1980s before moving to BBC1 and running until the late 1990s (ten series and sixty-two episodes). However, in the world of family history, ‘Alas Smith and Jones’ can often be heard, along with the addition of other ‘run of the mill’ surnames and certain expletives. When people ask, “How much does it cost to get your family history done?”, along with various often questions, we frequently quip “It will cost double if we find any sign of Smith, Jones, Evans, Williams, Brown … in your tree!”

This Easter Sunday, two members of the team have almost lost what was left of their sanity. Me (at FWL Towers) to the Jones family in Monmouthshire, Wales and the Northern Office to the Scott family of Durham. It is certainly not the first time we have looked at these cases, nor will it be the last. Each time we pick the file back up again, small inroads are made and the trees are slowly clearing to make the wood more visible. Actually, that’s another surname which we would probably put in the same bucket as Smith, Jones etc.! The thing which gets me is their lack of originality when naming their children. Sorry but William, Hannah/Ann, John, Margaret and such like are really not acceptable first names to be put alongside a common surname, without giving your offspring a middle name (or even two!). With all the daft names out there – Zebra Lynes (born and died 1875), Mineral Waters (1892-1916) etc. – you would think/hope that people would/could be more creative.

For many years, I battled in my own personal family tree to find some individuals with common names and some still elude me. Locating Ann Robson in Northumberland after 1841 took about ten years to work out … George Smith who never actually married Eleanor Bird but had a son by her … and double Evans on my maternal side (Evans marrying an Evans )…. argh!. We all have them (yes, I have Day, Oats and Jones too) but then we have the other surnames to offset – Maunder, Sillifant, Delamore, Kitcher etc. Though, they present their own challenges of spelling….

So, why do we do genealogy? A fellow geneablogger, Lorine McGinnis Schulze wrote on exactly that topic on the Legacy Family Tree news blog recently. Do you share her reasons for ‘doing genealogy’? Or do you have other ‘motives’? Interested to hear your thoughts…. (and horror stories of Smith, Jones …. too!)

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