Friday, April 14, 2017

The Trouble With Nicknames

When it comes to researching a name like Dolly, one can be fairly certain that is not a given name, but a nickname. When I tried to match the names on the Henry Reid family tree with those I had seen in that mystery photograph album I had found, I couldn't find any documented place for a name like Dolly. Nicknames require a researcher to find a way to know the rest of the story.

Now that we've met up with a descendant of the Reid and Hawkes families who has been quite gracious to provide the rest of the story on the people in that 1936 album, the names and faces are coming together. Except Dolly's.

Indeed, I wasn't even sure I had the right name. The handwriting on the page listing Chris and her companions at her "bungalow" had me wondering whether one of the women was actually named "Bolly."

But, as explained by Heather—Harry and Alice Reid's granddaughter whom we've since met here online—there was another family member who was called Dolly. Perhaps that was the one on the right of the threesome peering out the window in that old photograph. After all, we've since discovered that the other two women in that picture were sisters.

While Heather did send me several emails with photographs and descriptions, the way I found out about Dolly was a bit different. In trying to recall all the information she provided, I had thought at first that the little detail about Dolly had been discussed during our phone conversation. But looking back over my notes, I didn't find any mention there. Reviewing all the emails turned up not a clue as to where my memory had gleaned that detail.There had been such a flood of information coming all at once, and I had lost track of which source provided which fact—a sure signal that I need to reorganize my notes.

There had been one more item sent by Heather. It was a scan of a handwritten family tree. In impeccable—but tiny—print, it detailed the siblings from Harry's generation of the Reid family. Above one of his sisters' names, in even tinier print, was added the note, "Dolly."

It appears, then, that the Reid sibling who was known by that nickname was Harry's next older sister, Aphra. Born on May 31, 1889, in County Cork, by the time of the 1901 census, she was living elsewhere with an older Reid sister whom we've already met: Elizabeth, later to become Mrs. William O'Malley.

Apparently, at that time, Elizabeth was serving as a "national teacher" away from home in the County Cork village of Monkstown. In the household with Elizabeth was her half-brother Edmund Lombard Reid and her half-sister Aphra. At that point, Aphra was only eleven years of age. She was listed as a "scholar," and perhaps was staying there, rather than at home, for the educational opportunity.

By the time of the next census in 1911, Aphra was back home, presumably at Grange Cottage, with her father, another sister, and her younger brother Harry.

From that point on, there is little that can be gleaned from official documents, as the more current census records aren't available. However, a note from the superintendent registrar's district of Bandon provided the sad news that Aphra had passed away at the age of only fifty six, on March 28, 1945. Despite the winning smile she flashed for that photograph back in 1936, the one the family remembered as "Dolly" had remained single all her life. 


  1. Aphra - now there is a name I have not seen before. Surely there is a story.

    1. Well, apparently there is--actually, more than one, if you believe every result Google serves up for searches. Discarding the Droid archaeologist featured in the Star Wars comic series, and the Augsburg saint whose name was actually spelled Afra, the only credible reference I find is for a seventeenth century British author credited with being a literary role model for subsequent women writers, Aphra Behn.

      I'm sure there was a more personal reason her parents selected that name. I'll ask Heather if she knows any stories about this. It is an intriguing name.

  2. Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm not too sure how her classmates might have treated an unusual name like Aphra. Dolly sounds so much more friendly.


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