Miscellany (1)

Reflections from the President June 1996

Our journal Longshot represents the most essential and interesting form of communication open to us at present. It enables us to expand our Lin(d)field horizon so that we can appreciate the significance of all the branches of the tree. As Professor Steve Jones is showing in his current BBC 2 series, In the Blood, both Genealogy and Genetics have a common linguistic link, the gene. During the last few years, I have lectured on the Human Genome project and Genetic Engineering, as it seems necessary for us all to understand the significance of scientific research and its technological application. I wonder how many genealogists share my search for this understanding. Finally, on this topic, it gives me great pleasure that I live next door to the parents of Dr Richard Roberts, whom I have known since he was completing his PhD at Sheffield University. Richard shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1994 for his pioneering work on the split gene. Perhaps it would interest our members if I produced a short reading list to encourage reading on the fascinating story of Human Genetics!

Writing as a Hobby

So Communication in all its channels – the media – must depend ultimately on words. Indeed, forty or more years ago at university, I spent some time studying symbolic logic because I had been inspired by Bertrand Russell’s writings and FP Ramsey’s ‘Foundations of Mathematics.’ However, the work of the Viennese logician Carnap and some of his contemporaries seemed so arid that I became more interested in the work of Russell’s famous pupil, Ludwig Wittgenstein than symbolic logic. So I decided that statistics and experimental psychology were more appropriate in part II of the Tripos, as I really wanted to communicate as an educator with “all sorts and conditions of people.” Writing, like lecturing, has always attracted me, and whether it’s a personal letter, a book review, a magazine article or a press report, I enjoy the process. Sometimes words fail me and I look for some mathematical measure like opinion polls but our individual thoughts and feelings seem infinitely more important than marks on a scale. Every Lin(d)field has a unique story to tell and if anyone would like any help in its shaping with words on paper, I would be pleased to help.

Mary Offer’s delightful article “How did it all begin?” in the last issue of Longshot (Vol 4 No 2) seemed an excellent beginning. Even if your linkage with any of our known branches has not yet been fully established, write down some personal family history, especially memories of your own grandparents or interesting family friends or places you may like. There are vast areas of our Lin(d)field family heritage still to explore and every field is interesting. You might find the new journal ‘Family History Monthly’ useful to inspect as it aims to make family history more popular.

Field Name and Place Name Research

Until early 1994, when I had my slight stroke, I was alternately Secretary and Chairman of our Keynsham and Saltford Local History Society (1981-1994), although I had no academic qualification in History. However, both as an evening class student in Archaeology and Local History in Essex, Hertfordshire, Hampshire and here in the West Country, I have probably heard more lectures on historical subjects than on any other!!

Place names and field names fascinate me as much as family names, for research on names involve similar methods, as they all have connections. Anyone having the word FIELD as their whole surname or part thereof, as with us Lin(d)fields, must have an ancient connection with the land and/or farming. Field is derived from FELD (Old English) and corresponds to FELD in Old Frisian and Old Saxon, VELD (Dutch) and FELD (Old High German and German). LIN(D) is more difficult to identify as it can be any of the following in its origin: 

  • LINN, a waterfall, obsolete variant.
  • LIN, made of flax.
  • Variant of LITHE from the Old High German word LINDI, German LIND meaning soft and agreeable (of things) and gentle, meek (of persons).
  • Old English LIND or LINDE was the lime tree and also Old English LINDEN, LIND also meant made of the wood of the lime tree.

Whatever the historical origins of our family name, I will settle for gentle, meek, growers of flax in some Saxon fields!! (The Sermon on the Mount in the A.V. New Testament tells us “Blessed are the Meek”.)

Research on place names is often more disappointing; for instance, in recent years I have tried to trace two cottages mentioned on early Census Returns but I have been unable to locate their sites as so many cottages do not last more than a hundred years. One was at Hammerpot between Crossbush and Clapham, the home of NOAH LEACH, gamekeeper, my father’s maternal grandfather (1851 Census) and Granary Cottage in the parish of Shermanbury, where my maternal grandfather, GEORGE KNAPP is recorded as a nine year old scholar in the 1861 Census. However, I was delighted to find in recent research that my maternal grandfather, George Knapp, lived at Shermanbury from 1851 to 1877 when he married and moved to Woodmancote. My grandfather, GEORGE LINFIELD, and his two sons, my father George, and Uncle Fred, lived and worked at Ewhurst Farm, Shermanbury from the late 1890s until 1918/19, the end of the First World War. This discovery of links with the same place from both my maternal and paternal grandfathers has explained my fascination with this really rural tiny Sussex parish beside the upper reaches of the River Adur.

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