John and Catherine Stantiford
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In Issue 54 we wrote about the STENNIFORD  family whose STENTIFORD surname had been so mis-spelt over the years on various documents that the official version  of the family name had been permanently changed within the lifetime of one person. 


Spelling is a huge problem for any family historian but, over the years, STENTIFORD seems to have been a particularly difficult name for officials to handle. Researchers have to find the confidence to see through variations and revise what is written in the light of what they believe to be the true case. They always should remember that most of the information from the past was actually written down by someone other than a family member - and that maybe the someone  had never met the name before and was trying to write swiftly and phonetically what they heard a stranger say.













Anyone researching the family of Stephen Stantiford is going to find the task hard-going indeed, as the list above shows - and it is by no means a complete list! 


The 1881 Census Return from the Royal Navy's HMS Temeraire shows the presence in the crew of Stephen Stantiford aged 31, born in Stonehouse and working as Coxswain of the Cutter ( the small boat which conveyed people between the shore and the ship's anchorage).


Stephen was born in the March Quarter of 1850, one of the twin sons of John and Catherine Stantiford. In 1854, Catherine was  living in Totnes Union Workhouse at that time and it was there that Morris, Stephen's twin, died in 1854 aged 4; he was buried 21 May in the churchyard at Buckfastleigh. John Stentiford, Stephen's father was a Royal Marine. When these men were out of the country, life was very precarious for their families. Pay for men on fighting ships was usually based on the prize value of any ships they captured and for that they had to wait until they came back home. John became a Greenwich Pensioner when he retired from the Royal Marines with a pension for the remainder of his life.


So far so good you might think - but not a bit of it! John should have been John Stentiford, Caroline was actually called Catherine and Morris was really Maurice.


HMS Temeraire in 1881

HMS Temeraire in 1881

Courtesy of Steve Johnson


We can safely say that John's father and mother were John and Dorothy Stentiford of Buckfastleigh because that is what it clearly states in Buckfastleigh's parish register. We can connect them to other Stentifords living in Buckfastleigh at this time so there is no doubt about their family pedigree. But had you asked John and Dorothy what their surname was, they would have told you STANTIFORD, opening up and extending the first vowel - the usual pronunciation in that and many other parts of Devon.


Their son John, however,  did not get married in Buckfastleigh where everyone knew him. He carried his family pronunciation over to Plymouth and it was duly noted  as being that name in the register of the church of Charles the Martyr by a complete stranger who had never met him before. His wife's name was correctly recorded as Catherine Fitzgerald.


But if you try to find John's wife in the 1851 or the 1861 Census returns, you will discover that there, she is called Caroline. Today, we generally pronounce Caroline to rhyme with "Valentine" but if she responded to the enumerator by rhyming it with "Violin" (as many people still do today) another trail of changes was set in motion. There is no such mistake in later census returns which John or Catherine completed for themselves - her name was correctly given as Catherine. 


John Stantiford


ba 10 Dec 1818 Buckfastleigh

m 4 Feb 1844 Plymouth Charles

d ? (alive in 1891)

Catherine Fitzgerald


b 1822 Middleton, Ireland

m 4 Feb 1844 Plymouth Charles

d 1893 Sept Stoke Damerel aged 70


b 1844 East Stonehouse 



b 1850 Mar East Stonehouse 



b 1850 Mar East Stonehouse d 21 May 1854 Totnes Union aged 4 (Buried in Buckfastleigh)


Margaret Ann

b 1856 March East Stonehouse m 1871 March Plymouth d ?

Edwin Farr


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Last modiied: 29/12/2007