Use of "alias" in early Massachussetts Bay records

+9 votes

In reworking the profile of PGM Francis Kendall I encounter the family lore surrounding the use of the word "alias" in one document, his marriage record in Woburn, which reads "Ffrances Kendall, alias Miles, and Mary Tedd maryed the 24th of 10 mo 1644." In no other record is he referred to as Kendall alias Miles nor has any record in England purported to be his found with this nor is there any record of his traveling to the colony as Miles. There is some indication that he immigrated with other family members in which case it is unlikely he used a name other than his own.

This has given rise to an entirely undocumented family lore that he left England under an assumed name due to parental disapproval. There is nothing on which to base this lore and it would appear this is a fanciful invention to explain the marriage record. Dawes-Gates which contains the most extensive relatively contemporary examination of Kendall discounts both explanations regarding the wording of this marriage record in a footnote on page 376.

My question is when did the use in England of giving names such as Richmond alias Webb end in general practice and is there any evidence that this practice was used in the colony and, if so, continued as late as 1644?

Please note the profile of Frances Kendall is being revised. What is there presently is what is being reworked and/or discarded.

WikiTree profile: Francis Kendall
in Genealogy Help by T Stanton G2G6 Pilot (190k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Somewhere just this morning or yesterday I ran into a comment that in old records alias was sometimes spelled allies

2 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

This article states that they were fairly common in England up until about 1650 and continued to some extent into the 1800s. The practice appears to have arisen during the transitional period of the adoption of fixed family surnames. The idea that an alias was used back then to cover up something is a modern misunderstanding of the practice and, as suggested by the Dawes-Gates footnote, has led to all sorts of fanciful theories.

Here's an example of the use of an alias from an abstract of a 1637 Devonshire will. The Elinore Mortimore alias Tanner who made the will was the mother of PGM immigrants Timothy Hatherly and Eglin (Hatherly) (Hanford) Sillis. (Elinore's first husband had been Robert Hatherly; she married, second, William Mortimore alias Tanner):

 The last Will of Elinor Mortimore, otherwise Tanner, of Fremington, Widow. She desires to be buried in the parish churchyard, just by the chancel door, near to the "sepulchre" of husband William Mortimore, alias Tanner, and leaves 10s. to the poor of the parish. Mentions sons Matthew and Henry Mortimore, alias Tanner, and daughter Elinor Friend; also son Tymothy Hatherley and daughter Eylin Hanver. Residue to said daughter Elinore Friend, who is Sole Executrix. Witnesses -- William Blanchard, minister; John Barwicke. Proved 30th Aug., 1637

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (211k points)
selected by T Stanton
Thanks, Chase. This comports with my limited understanding from untangling some of the Richmond alias Webb lineage in WikiTree. I've now found the lore that he traveled under an assumed name in no less than four pre-1920 publications all of which appear to have taken this from an early 19th Century family member Dr Rev Kendall of Weston, Massachusetts.
Kendall alias Miles does not appear to have cropped up in any research done in England to date. Anderson GMD gives his origins as Westmill, Hertfordshire but I'm not sure which source he is using -- appears that the wife was from Herts.
I’ve seen alias used in my own family in England in the 1600s. I’ve also seen each of the two names used by itself in records into the 1660s, without noting that there is an alias. So it is important to search for records under both names. Maybe it is remarkable that the discontinuation of one of the names seems to have occurred at the same time that the family migrated to the New World.
+10 votes

I can't comment on what happened later in America but such names were relatively common in parts of England .They continued over generations, in some cases into the 19th C.

See the results of this search on the Dorset OPC data base.

  These names could pass down over many generations so are not for nefarious reasons.

An earlier question

Both my husband and I have ancestral relatives with alias names (  Lawrence alias Ford in Dorset and Caporne alias Fitzhugh in Northamptonshire both continued  into the late 18th C)

It  can make it very hard to trace a family; sometimes the full alias is used  in parish register but  sometimes alternative  names are used in a seemingly  ad hoc manner by the parish clerk. Wills, land records and marriage licences  seem more likely to include the full alias name. 

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (322k points)

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