I admit it. I’m a massive fan of the Harry Potter books and I think J. K. Rowling deserves a lot of praise for creating a fantastic series which will entertain children and adults for decades to come. I hold my head up high when I say I have queued for books at midnight and stayed up all night to find out what would happen next. What a crazy muggle I am.
For tonight’s admittedly less serious blog post I celebrate my re-reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the umpteenth time with some light-hearted research into the popularity and occurrences of some now well-known names. It is not long since I tweeted that I was researching a family with children named the same as five of the six Weasley brothers. So, I decided to see if I could find any other gems in the records for tonight’s installment of the Your Local History blog.
Hogwarts is mainstream whether you have read the books or not. Yesterday, I spotted an appeal to rehome two cats named Bellatrix Black and Luna Lovegood. (Had the person who named them actually read the books I wondered, Bellatrix and Luna were hardly on the same side?!) Today, I discovered there are plenty of websites helping you have a Harry Potter wedding, decorate a Harry Potter house and that the wiki (harrypotter.wikia.com) has 7961 pages.
So it appears Harry Potter is everywhere – and even getting in on genealogy. Amongst hundreds of other things, you can view character family trees online, and the study of family history is mentioned frequently throughout the books. Readers will know that the Muggle-Born Registration Commission forced witches and wizards to prove their lineage; that the book Nature’s Nobility:A Wizarding Genealogy contained details of pure-blood families ‘extinct in the male line’; and that the Peverell family, original owners of the Deathly Hallows, were identified in the said book as one of the first families to die out. Family histories of the characters were all explored – from Hagrid’s giant mother and human father to Dumbledore’s hidden sister and goat charming brother, and from Neville’s tortured parents to Ron’s large but poor red-headed wizard family.
Of course, many mentions of family history in the books were not there in a positive light. Trees provided ways for Death Eaters to prove the mightiness of their blood. However, if the ‘Noble and Most Ancient House of Black’ family tree fixed by a permanent sticking charm to the wall at 12, Grimmauld Place has inspired anyone, particularly perhaps children, to investigate their own roots, then I would like to shake J.K’s hand. I hope however, that any so-inspired individual would celebrate the diversity of their tree rather than ‘prune the edges’ a la Voldemort’s suggestion to Bellatrix!
So, in search of a little Harry Potter themed genealogy, I turned to a key word census search (and of course there are accuracy draw backs to consider) to discover just how many name sakes were around in England and Wales in 1901. It turns out there were around 250 Harry Potters at the time, eleven in Suffolk and five in Norfolk. Those in Suffolk mostly worked with horses rather than thestrals and those in Norfolk were mostly at school – either teaching or learning – but in day rather than boarding schools.
It’s hardly surprising to find scores of Harry Potters and hundreds more Harrys – I even found a family headed by a James, with wife Lily and baby son Harry living in Yorkshire (perhaps under an alias to keep away the Dark Lord?). I was surprised however to find no sign of a Hermione Granger and only a Ronald Wesley, not a Ronald Weasley. As for Ron’s brothers, the Morgans of Monmouthshire, Locks of Surrey and Millers of Gloucestershire all used Charles, George, Frederick, William and Percival for five of their sons.
Looking at the teachers, a 36 year old Albus appeared working in a Welsh coal mine in 1901. Also in Wales, a Minerva worked as a school mistress. Over in Lancashire, a Master Snape presided over a boarding school. Other characters’ names appear in droves particularly in the north – Luna was most common in Lancashire and Yorkshire as were Neville and Ginny. Remus and Kingsley turned out to be recorded most often in London, Hermione rarely anywhere (transcription error?) and no ‘Hagrid’ but two ‘Hogards’ in Wimbledon.
Where the dark arts are concerned, three men bore the name Tom Riddle – one a cabinet maker and French polisher, another a foreman and another a licensed victualler. It is of course no surprise that Tom’s chosen name later in life appears nowhere in the schedules!
Standing up for the house elves are over 425 individuals with the surname ‘Dobby’, again mostly in Yorkshire, while for the pets, five are recorded with the surname ‘Crookshanks’ and an Abraham ‘Hedwig’ resides in King’s Lynn….
I couldn’t end this post without touching on some local places. Lavenham in Suffolk, squarely in ‘my’ research patch, famously provided the backdrop to some of the scenes in the last HP movie, and the east of England can provide some magical sounding villages good enough to rival Godric’s Hollow or Ottery St Catchpole. Take Marshland St James, Burnham Overy, Tilney Fen End, Dallinghoo, Little Livermere, Great Waldringfield, Walsham le Willows, Nedging-with-Naughton, Three Holes or Bury St Edmunds for starters. Add road names like the Smeeth and Nowhere Lane and you’ve got a novel.
So, there I will bring to a close today’s more unusual blog post – normal service will be resumed next week. I will also do an ad hoc post re my One Lovely Blog Award which I am very much honoured to have received from Sue at Family Folklore.
I will share just one more thing. If I ever have a son, his name shall be Neville…