This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 22nd November 1999, reproduced by kind permission of the author, Desmond Holden.

The "What's in a Name" series has been a regular feature in the Advertiser.
Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames and Desmond regrets he is unable to undertake research into the genealogy, descent or family history of individuals.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

"In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves."

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called YOUNG?
Variations: Younger, Youngs, Younge.

The custom of naming sons after their father is well-established. To avoid confusion it is usual to add some distinguishing expression. Interesting examples are: Johann Strauss I (Radetzky March) and Johann Strauss II (Blue Danube); Alexandre Dumas, père (Monte Cristo) and Alexandre Dumas, fils (Dame aux Camelias); the artists, David Teniers the Elder and David Teniers the Younger. Some film stars are similarly distinguished, especially the two Douglas Fairbanks and the two character actors Lon Chaney (Quasimodo) and his son Lon Chaney, Jnr (The Wolfman).

In the Middle Ages, when there wasn't all that much originality of choice in the matter of first names, the general arrangement was simply to tag on "younger". In fact, as far back as the 700s in Anglo Saxon society, references occur such as "Wilferth seo Ivngo" which can loosely be interpreted as "Wilfred, surnamed the Younger".

The widespread use of "young" is verified in that from many of the older records where Latin is employed, it is regularly translated as "junior". This is so especially in Scotland where in Dumbarton (1271) we encounter "Ade dictus Juvenis" or "Adam, called the Young Man". Otherwise the use of "young" was so well-established in Scotland that its Gaelic counterpart "Og" became a personal name and was often taken as a name by the junior of a pair. In 1124 there was an inquiry concerning church property in Glasgow in which one of the judges was an Oggo Cameron.

The earliest English record dates from 1201 and describes an "Alanus Junior" and another (date and place uncertain) runs the two together as "John Young, aliter Junior". In passing it might be useful to mention that other designations were in use, particularly "little", "elder" and "senior". Much of what follows concerning "young" or "younger" can be related to them. But caution! "Elder" does not originate from the name of the tree and "little" is not a misrendering of "Liddell" which is a location name (Cumberland).

A romantic notion has it that some people in the far north of Scotland are descendants of survivors who managed to struggle ashore following the wreck of the Armada (1588). Tradition has it that local inhabitants took pity and adopted them into the community. They were dubbed "the señors" for obvious reasons, which in time modified into the surname "Senior". (In fact the Spanish "señor" is derived directly from the Latin "senior"). It's an attractive story but sadly can't be verified. Furthermore, "senior" meaning "the elder" of two persons of the same family name had long been used in Scotland. There is, for example, a "Robertus Senior" in Aberdeen two hundred years previously (1382).

Of all the variations on "Young" and "Younger" only "Younger" has a double origin. It could have been independently introduced by Flemish immigrants as well. In their society on the Continent a young nobleman who had not yet taken up his title was called a "jongheer" (c.f. German "junker"). It combines "jong" (young) with "herr" (master) and can be interpreted as "the young lord". The Flemings were encouraged to settle here by Edward III (1327-77) principally in the eastern counties but there are references to several of the name in Fife, over the border. They are known to be immigrants because they are described as salt-merchants which at the time was exclusive to the Flemings.

The first record in England occurs in Wakefield (West Riding) to "William Yunghare" about 1297 and later in London to "John Youngehare", (1364). Both are described as being "of Flanderes". Otherwise the appearance of "young" or "younger" can be attributed to a father and son relationship. The use of this description and its variations was so extremely widespread that individual families could have originated from almost anywhere in Britain. Only access to verifiable records could provide more specific information.

There are certainly no areas of noticeable concentration except possibly in the eastern counties when "younger" could have increased owing to Flemish influence. The local directories covering our own county contain about 500 entries.

So very large a number of personalities have borne the name that it makes selection somewhat invidious. An obvious inclusion is James Young (1773-1829). He will forever be associated with the discovery of the oil wells at Alfreton in 1847. He made the very first paraffin-wax candles and from his discoveries opened the way to the great petroleum enterprise across the world.

Mention might also be made of Edward Young (1685-1765) whose poem "Night Thoughts" was for long enthusiastically received and quoted. He gave us the line: "Procrastination is the thief of time" - often misattributed to Shakespeare. In America, the religious leader Brigham Young (1801-1877) did much to establish the Mormon Community in Salt Lake City in 1847.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 22nd November 1999.

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