The names given to his children by my great grandfather, Joseph Priestley Roe, offer clues to the identities of the significant people in his life – and especially the importance of the Blanch and Ellis families. Joseph and Eliza Roe had at least nine children between them (there were possibly more arrivals following the birth of my Nan, Minnie Louisa Roe in 1902, but I can’t confirm them as yet). They were:

Joseph William (1884)

Mary Elizabeth (1885)

Emma Kezia (1886)

Walter Ellis (1887)

Flora Eliza (1899)

Elizabeth (1891)

William (1893)

John (1895)

Minnie Louisa (1902)

The name of Joseph’s and Eliza’s first-born is unproblematic: he’s named after his father and his maternal grandfather, William Bailey. Mary Elizabeth is probably named after Joseph’s mother Mary Ann (nee Blanch), who died when he was 8 or 9, and Eliza’s mother, Elizabeth Bailey – so she has the names of her two grandmothers.

Emma Kezia may be named after Joseph’s aunt Emma Trader (nee Blanch), with whom he lived when he was in his late teens. Kezia could derive from Joseph’s maternal grandmother, Kezia Blanch (nee Holdsworth), who looked after the Roe children after their parents died; he also had an aunt and an older sister with the same name.

Walter Ellis, as I’ve noted in previous posts, demonstrates Joseph’s affinity with the Ellis family – which we haven’t quite explained yet. Or it could simply be a means of perpetuating the middle name borne by his older brother, Daniel. Walter was a popular name in the Blanch family: he could be named after Joseph’s uncle, Walter Trader, for whom he worked for a while; or Walter David Blanch, son of David John Blanch and Sophia Sarah Ellis who emigrated to Australia; or Joseph’s cousin Walter Thomas, son of his uncle John Holdsworth Blanch.

Flora Eliza bears the name of Joseph’s cousin, another daughter of John Holdsworth Blanch, who was a witness at his wedding and for a time lived close by in West Ham. Her middle name could derive from any number of people in the extended Blanch-Holdsworth-Roe family, but is probably in honour of her mother, Eliza Bailey.

Elizabeth, William and John were important Bailey names: the first two were, as we’ve noted, the names of Eliza’s parents, but she also had brothers named John and William, and a grandfather named John. The latter was also the name of Joseph Roe’s older brother.

Finally, I had thought that my grandmother’s name, Minnie Louisa, was a one-off and had no echoes in the wider family. Indeed, it seems that Minnie was a fashionable name from the 1870s onwards. But exploring the Blanch connection the other day, and particularly receiving information from Robin Blanch about the Cheshire family link, made me wonder if this was another example of Joseph’s ties to his mother’s family. As I noted in an earlier post, (Maria) Jane Blanch, who married Joseph Cheshire, had a daughter Minnie in 1877. It could be coincidence, evidence of a fashion in naming, or a further hint about Joseph’s links with the Blanches.

I find it interesting, by the way, that none of Joseph’s sons carry the name of his father, Daniel. Does this indicate that he was so young when his father died that he didn’t remember him, or that there was some rift in the family?