The name Dalzell

appears in my family tree 17 or more times, used as a middle name, the first such being my great-grandfather Arthur Dalzell Piper.  Whether it was through pride in the name, or perhaps a Victorian romanticism for the perceived Scottish connection, or perhaps through sheer perversity knowing that it would be regularly mispronounced  (it should be pronounced DEE-ELL), Arthur and his wife Agnes included Dalzell as the second and last middle name for all seven of their children.  In the census of 1881, when Arthur was an unmarried Church of England curate living in lodgings near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, he clearly gave the enumerator his full name, and even after his death in 1895 his widow Agnes appears to have continued to include Dalzell so that her surname might have been read as Dalzell Piper.  Other more distant cousins, who must also have had the same proud possession of the name, did exactly that and double-barrelled it to Dalzell-Piper, and they are the reason I say "17 or more" above..

What was not clear however was where it came from in the first place.  All these people were descendents of Francis Caton Piper and his second wife Hannah Parsey (they married in Whitechapel in 1842 in the same church as had her parents), but neither of these had the name themselves.  However when my mother Pauline became interested in family history in the 1980s - herself and her three sisters all having the Dalzell middle name - she discovered that Hannah Parsey was the daughter of Jacob Parsey and his second wife Frances nee Dalzell (or Dalziel as she appears to have spelled it herself) and so the source of the name was she.

Exhaustive searches of all known online records have been carried out over many years, and there is no trace of the birth of a Frances Dalziel or Dalzell (or spelled in any way) anywhere in Great Britain between 1770 and 1780 which is the period in which she was born, as I explain below.   We have had to think laterally and investigate thoroughly, and whilst there is still no positive proof of her ancestry there is now a strong probability of where she originated and who her parents were.
The first document we have that mentions Frances Dalziel is a "Marriage Allegation" of September 11th 1811, a means of avoiding the calling of banns in church, making the marriage more private, or perhaps a secret, and quicker.  Jacob Parsey was a widower, his first wife Elizabeth having died in March 1806, and his prospective bride is shown as Frances Dalziel, described as a Spinster "of Plaistow in the County of Essex".  Why would they have wished their marriage to be private or more secretive or speedier than would be the case if Banns were called?  Read about Marriage Allegations here

St. Mary Whitechapel

St.Mary's, Whitechapel

From the Allegation we know that Frances is "aged upwards of twenty one years", so no parental permission was needed, but was Jacob marrying below his station?  Was Frances very much younger than him?  Was there some family opposition, or was Frances perhaps pregnant, heaven forfend?  There are no clues in the Allegation itself, nor indeed in the parish record for St.Mary's Whitechapel, where they married exactly two weeks after the Allegation was made, on 25th September 1811.  If there was family objection it would not have come from the Parsey side as the witnesses to the marriage were John Parsey (believed to be Jacob's brother), Jacob's daughter Sarah Parsey and John's daughter Barbara Susanna Parsey, but there were no Dalzell witnesses.

Jacob Parsey and Frances Dalzell Marriage Register Entry 1811

How might Jacob have met Frances? The role of women in Georgian England. (Expand to read)

I suggest below that it seems likely that Frances Dalziel was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth of Stockhow Hall, Lamplugh, Cumberland, and if that is the case we can assume that they were a "genteel", middle class family, or at the very least a family with aspirations to be so.  Born in 1775 or thereabouts, by the time she reached her 21st birthday England was living under the mores of the Regency period and was at war with Napoloeon's France.  This was not a time to be an unmarried woman of that social class as options were limited - one only has to read the novels of Jane Austen to have a picture of the social life and limited activities open to women in Georgian England.  

We also have to ask why she was in London, more than 300 miles from her place of birth.  She would not have gone there "to get a job", as she might have had she lived 150 years or so later.  There were no roles for women in offices or shops, only in service for those of the lower classes, whilst women from the middle class might be obliged to try their luck in the "Marriage Market" of a large city or if that failed to seek a position as a governess or teacher, or as a hired "lady's companion" if she wished to escape living with her relatives as a `dependant' (which was more or less Jane Austen's own situation).  It is probable that such positions were more readily available in and around London than in Cumberland, and in any case the number of eligible bachelors in Britain reduced significantly in the Napoleonic wars between 1804 and 1815, in which more than 300,000 British men died.  To quote from a book about the era ¥ "This prolonged period of conflict had a greater impact on the population in general than the Industrial Revolution that was taking place at the same tiime.....During the century following the Battle of Waterloo the period from 1793 to 1815 was referred to as the "Great War".....The wars were on a scale that would not be experienced again until the First World War." 

It would be conjecture only, but might it have been that Frances found a position in the Parsey household either before or after the death of Elizabeth, Jacob's first wife?  She died in March 1806, not long after the death of her elder son who died in March 1805 aged 15.  Might she have sought a companion or decided to employ a Housekeeper before her death?  If not this, then it is hard to imagine how Jacob might otherwise have met her.  

The fact that Frances Dalziel eventually married Jacob Parsey despite being in her 30s and still a spinster in itself suggests that she did come from a family with pretension to gentility.  We know that Jacob Parsey, although of course "in trade" because of his occupation as a stationer, was a pillar of his community, being a member of the Vestry for St.Mary Whitechapel.  He would not have married someone who was not from the right social level, which is another reason to believe that Frances might have been brought up at Stockhow Hall.  Also we should not be distracted by Frances' parish at the time of the marriage.  Had she been living in his household in some capacity, for the sake of decorum she would have moved away for the time at which the Marriage Allegation was arranged and the period prior to the wedding day.  

Read more about the limited options for women on other websites here: and here:

Three children resulted from this marriage, the first, Samuel, being baptised in St.Mary Whitechapel on 18th October 1812 having been born on 18th September.  This would suggest that Frances was not pregnant when she married Jacob, so the privacy need must have been for some other reason.  Two more children were baptised in 1814 and 1816, Elizabeth and Hannah, and this completed their family. 

The next document on which Frances appears is the 1841 census, taken on 6th June that year, when she and Jacob were living in Whitechapel and this is the first time we see her age — although for this census the Enumerators were told to round ages down to the nearest multiple of five years.  She and Jacob had now been married for thirty years of course, but we now see their difference in age.  Jacob is shown as being 80 whilst Frances was shown as 65, but, because of the rounding, they could have been as old as 84 and 69 respectively.  At a minimum he was 11 years older than she.

Jacob died just three months later and in the parish burial register his age is shown as 81.

Apart from appearing as a major beneficiary in Jacob's will, where he described her as his "dear wife Frances" and left her "the sum of five hundred pounds three per cent consolidated Bank Annuities" and an annuity of £35 a year, the next record we have for Frances is the 1851 census, taken on 30th March, and on this occasion ages were supposed to be actual rather than rounded.  Frances was now "a lodger", living at 5 Beaumont Square, Mile End Old Town, and her age is shown as 76.  She was an Annuitant & Fund Holder and her place of birth is given very clearly as "Cumberland, Cockermouth".  Her given age would suggest that she was born in about 1775, and also means that she was 36 when she and Jacob married.  It would also mean that she would have been approaching 40 years of age at the time their youngest child Hannah was born, hence perhaps there being no further children.

Frances died on 11th January 1859 and is buried in Great Hormead Churchyard, Hertfordshire (see gravestone on right or below).  On that gravestone her age at death is shown as 82 which would suggest that she was born in 1777, although ages shown at death are not always accurate.

A possible family?

This was all we knew about Frances Dalzell and so began a search for her birth in the Cumberland parish records.  These are not available online, although the old International Genealogical Index of the Church of Latter day Saints (or the Mormon IGI) does include transcriptions of a large proportion of these records. Ploughing through this and collecting as much information as we could we were able to identify a family with the name Dalzell living at first in the village of Moor Row, near Egremont, and later in the parish of Lamplugh, who were having children at the right time, Thomas and Elizabeth Dalziel.  The original records of these two parishes have now been thoroughly checked at the Whitehaven Records Office and the names and baptism dates for these children are as follows:

Margaret Dalziell      Baptised at Egremont 22nd March 1769
John Dalziell             Baptised at Egremont 11th August 1770
Anthony Dalziell       Baptised at Egremont 11th January 1772
William Dalziel         Baptised at Lamplugh 4th July 1773
Robert Dalziel           Baptised at Lamplugh 27th September 1778
Betty Dalziel             Baptised at Lamplugh 20th August 1780        

No other baptisms for Dalziel, Dalzell or any other variation were found in either of these two parishes, or indeed in any neighbouring or surrounding parish, and a total of nineteen were checked.  No other Dalzells or similar were found in the area who were having children at this time, although other later entries, most of which relate to this same family and their descendants, were.  

The gravestone of Frances Parsey, nee Dalziel, buried at Great Hormead, Herts.

Zoom for detail

I believe this is the most likely family into which Frances was born, for these reasons: 

There is a clear gap in the regular baptisms of children in this family between 1773 and 1778, precisely the time that Frances would appear to have been born.  

1.  The Parish Register for Lamplugh at this time is neatly completed, almost to the point that it might have been completed in batches, perhaps from notes taken at the time, which was not an uncommon practice.  Perhaps she was baptised there but it was not recorded in the Register at the time.   Unfortunately the Bishops Transcripts of the Registers (an annual copy sent by the parish to their Bishop) show the same detail, not surprising as they are certified to be true copies from the Register itself. 

2.  At this time the Church appears to have had no vicar exclusive to the parish but was administered from 1772 by Clement Nicholson, Curate who was also vicar of neighbouring Ennerdale.  The Parish Register for Ennerdale was also checked but Frances does not appear.

3.  The building of St Michael's Lamplugh itself underwent reconstruction in 1771 which may have contributed to any administrative difficulties at this time, although this is perhaps unlikely as William was baptised there in 1773.

4.  In the census of 1851 she gave her place of birth as "Cumberland, Cockermouth", as we have seen.  Is it not probable that, being asked this question she would give the name of the nearest town, one that the Enumerator might have heard of?  Lamplugh is less than seven miles from Cockermouth, a thriving market and industrial town in the late nineteenth century, with a population of 2,652 in 1785  ¹  (and today Lamplugh is signposted from the centre of Cockermouth).

(Also note that the vicar of Lamplugh from 1701 to 1729. Thomas Jefferson, was also Rector of Cockermouth, again indicating the closeness of the two places)  ²

5.  From 1837 Cockermouth was not only the name of a town but also of the Registration District, comprising 58 parishes, and although Lamplugh was not in that Registration district, being in the Whitehaven district, it was a name an Enumerator might well know.  Whilst Lamplugh is 7 miles from Cockermouth it is 10 miles from Whitehaven. 

6.  There were not that many people in the area in any case.  It is estimated that the entire population of Cumberland and Westmorland together in 1700 was just 90,000 and in 1771 the population of Cumberland, the larger of the two counties, was 96346.  ³

Cockermouth and Lamplugh Map 1794

Extract from Cary's map of 1794

7.  Then there is the comparison of the Dalziel signatures.  We have the signatures of Thomas Dalziel from his Marriage Bond of 1768.  At this time his signature ended with a double L, but its style is not dissimilar to that of his son John, and we have his signature from his Marriage Bond twenty five years after his father's, in 1793.  Lastly we have Frances' signature from a slightly out-of-focus copy of the St.Mary Whitechapel Parish Register that she signed on 23rd September 1811 when she married Jacob Parsey.  If my supposition is correct then these are the signatures of a father and his son, and also of his daughter.

Three Dalziel Signatures

The first observation is that they could all write their names, although Frances' is perhaps less confident than the other two, but that aside they all have an element of flourish, and in each case that flourish is on the initial letters of their christian names and surname.  There is a similarity in both the flourish at the top or start of the christian name initials and also at the bottom, a definite upturn in each case.  Whilst the surnames are more or less ornate, perhaps not much can be said here as Georgian capital D s appear to have been formed in this same way, although the bottom loop may not always have been present.  None of them make much of the z, and whilst the bottom Frances' z may appear to be cut off it isn't - if anything it is smudged.  It is not looped, unlike John's but very like Thomas'.  All have looped Ls, but this is typical of writing of this period.


As a comparison the second picture shows other people's writing of the name Frances Dalziel, one from the marriage allegation and one, presumably, by the priest who married her and her husband, or if not him then someone else who was involved in an official capacity. The scribe's is nothing like her signature - why should it be? - but perhaps these serve to amplify the similarities between the three Dalziel signatures.

The spelling of surnames is notoriously variable especially prior to the mid nineteenth century before the majority could read and write, and therefore not usually used as evidence to prove which family might be which. However in this case these three signatories, all from the Cockermouth area of Cumberland, all spelled their surname the same way - including Thomas who, by 1798, when a plan of his landholding in Moor Row, Egremont was drawn up, seemingly had dropped the second "L" .  It was only their descendents who changed the spelling to "Dalzell" some time around the 1820s to 1840s.    It is interesting to note that the Dalziel family in Cumberland changed the spelling, starting with Thomas's older children - as can be seen from various memorial and grave stones (see this page about the Dalzell family in Cumberland) and, it would seem from a transcription, on Thomas and Elizabeth's own gravestone at St. Bees (transcribed before it was moved or destroyed in 1974 as part of a graveyard clearance).

In 1909 J B Dalzell wrote an article published in the The Scottish Historical Review entitled
"Dalzell: An Ancient Scottish Surname". §  Although he ends by listing 220 versions of spelling of the name, all "copied from a printed volume, a gravestone, a session register, or from other sources"
he summarises  "These five forms, Dalzell, Dalyell, Dalzel, Dalziel and Dalziell, comprise all the forms in present use." 
He goes on
"With regard to the forms of spelling of the name in present use, the descendents of the Lord Dalzell of Dalzell, who was created in 1639 Earl of Carnwath, are among the many who favoured the Dalzell form."
Without wishing to suggest "social climbing" - oh well, maybe I am - perhaps this is why the family in Cumberland decided this was the spelling for them?  But it is also worth noting that as Thomas's children and grandchildren in Cumberland were moving to this spelling in the first half of the nineteenth century, so too were Frances' descendents in Hertfordshire.

8.  And finally, if not this family then which?  Is it not more likely that a mistake was made in omitting to enter her baptism in the Parish Register, or even perhaps that Frances was not baptised at all, rather than that she wasn't born where she said, or that a mysterious other couple came to Cumberland, had a child then moved away again without leaving any trace?

The theory known as Okham's Razor suggests that "other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones".   

Although it is not yet proved, the simplest and therefore most likely explanation would be that Frances was the daughter of Thomas Dalziel and Elizabeth, nee Wildridge, that she came from the village of Lamplugh, Cumberland, and that her baptism was simply not recorded.

If that is so, who were this family and what became of them?  Follow this link to read more about the Dalzells of Cumberland.

Sources and Acknowledgements

¥ "Tracing your Georgian Ancestors, 1714 - 1837" by John Wintrip,  pub Pen & Sword 2018


²  See re church reconstruction and for list of clergy etc

³  English county populations in the later eighteenth century by Tony WrigleyMale Occupational Change and Economic Growth 1750-1851
Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.
An ESRC Funded Project

§ "Dalzell: An Ancient Scottish Surname" - J. B. Dalzell - The Scottish Historical Review
Vol. 7, No. 25 (Oct., 1909), pp. 69-72 - Published by: Edinburgh University Press