IT SEEMS TO BE FAMILY
Updated January 13, 2005
Some early 19th Century generations of the family were unable to write: in several instances official records bear a "mark" instead of a signature. Consequently, an entry in a Register was spelled entirely at the whim of the local Vicar, Parish Clerk, or Registrar.
The names Swansbury and Swanborough have a lot of scope, and every imaginable permutation seems to have occurred. This probably accounts for the mutation from Swanborough to Swansbury around 1800 and may be the origin of some of the sporadic earlier and contemporary occurrences of Swansbury listed in the IGI [and some census records - ed.]. Variations found include:
Swanberow Swansbeorgh, Swainsbury, Swanbery Swansberry Swanboarah, Swansborn Swanboro Swansboro Swanboroe Swansborough Swanborow, Swansbrough Sansbery Swanborowe Swansbuary Sansbury Swansbro Swansboro, Swanborough Swansburrow Swanborrough Swansburry Swainsbury Swanborrow, Swanbrey Swanbro Swornborough Swanbrogh Swornbury Swanbron Swanbrough, Swanbrow Swanberry Swanburah Swanburgh Swanburrough Swanburrow, Swanbury Swanburry Swoonsbrong Swansper, Swonbury, Troanborough, [New names added as discovered by other team members.]
...note from John Swansbury
I was re-reading through some old emails last night and came across a conversation about the various spellings of Lewis Swan(s)borough. May I throw in a few more? At the end of his life he was a pauper and had to ask for aid from the Parish. Some of these old records have survived and are kept in the Somerset County Archives. Some years ago I transcribed about 30 entries for him, including the following:
1817 Mar 15: Pd Lew Swonbury 0/ 8/0
1817 Apr 15: Pd Lew Swansbury 0/ 8/0
1818 Dec 23: Lue Swanbrey in distrefs 0/ 0/6
1819 Jan 10: Paid Lew Swansbery in distrefs 0/ 5/0
1819 Jan 25: Paid Lew Swansbury in distrefs 0/ 3/6
1822 Apr 15: Lew Swainsbury house rent 1/10/0
Our name seems to have almost endless possibilities for variation in spelling.
These same records also gave me the names of the parents of his daughter-in-law, and reveal that his first name might have officially been Lewis but he was generally known as "Lew". A nice, personal glimpse.
There could be more of this sort of source in the Wiltshire County archives, just waiting for us to look them out!
I got curious about the various spellings of the name. I did an internet search for all the variations of the spelling listed above for the UK. This is what I found:
l - Swanbrough
66 - Swanborough (the total seeming to bear out the belief that it is the most *authentic or at least the original version before the misspellings began...)
29 - Swansborough
0 - Swansbro
1 - Swansboro
1 - Swansbrough
0 - Swanbro
2 - Swanbrow
22 - Swansbury
The name Swansborough is territorial in origin and although no such place can be found on modern maps, it was once an administrative district in Wiltshire, covering the area around DEVIZES and ALL CANNINGS. The original form of spelling was SWANNASBURGH. This breaks down neatly into two Saxon words: SWANNAS = a farm and BURGH = A fortified building. It therefore almost certainly refers to some sort of fortified small holding in the area which at that time would have been in the kingdom of WESSEX, and would seem to indicate that the family are of Saxon decent. Given this information it is interesting to note that the Saxon King HAVELOCK had a daughter called SWANBOROUGH. It is easy to think that this might imply some royal connection, but today this would be impossible to prove.
I note that one of your texts has 'swan' originating from 'sveinn'. I believe that, before Europe had formal borders, the northern European tribes had many language similarities. Old Norse certainly had 'sveinn' but then Old English from the same period used the term 'swain' or 'swan'with similar meaning. Old German has similar terms. Whether one was the root of the other who knows, but I suspect they all had even earlier common roots.
The favorite nickname for the men in the family throughout the ages seems to have been "Swanny," in one spelling or another. Each family line has mentioned at least one person with that nickname.
Updated January 13, 2005
Copyright 1998-2005, Bonnie Swansbrough
My claim of copyright extends to the original contributions that I have made to this site and to the site as a compilation of existing works. Some contributions to this site have been made by others, and they are given credit where appropriate, and they retain the copyrights to their works.