Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Dedamess, Diddams, Didemus, Didimouse, Didimus
Category: 3 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way on a global basis.
Contact: Mr Gary Wood
As demand for labour moved away from the rural centres to the towns during the first quarter of the century, the name soon reached Portsmouth and Southampton. Travel became easier for the working classes after the introduction of the railways, and soon migrants could be found at the larger towns on the mainline such as Brighton and London. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the name begins to appear overseas in places such as New York, Ontario and Melbourne.
The respective fishing fleets were also connected since mariners from the West Country would have put in at ports at various points along the south coast depending on where their catch could be found or sold. There was also a coastal passenger and mail service between Devon and Hampshire: News from the Americas would generally arrive in Plymouth and would be conveyed to London via Portsmouth rather than overland along the treacherous and dangerous roads of the period.
Finally there were the trading ships that operated along the South Coast: One such example is described in the “Ship News” in the Morning Chronicle of 6th February 1773, which reports on the arrival in Southampton of the Industry, a vessel arriving from Fowey in Cornwall whose master’s name is given as “Didimus”. John Dydimus who was born in 1752 in Titchfield is known to have served in the "coastal trade" and made frequent trips to Devon and Cornwall (although the above notice may refer to his father).
It’s likely that the surname Didham, which is comparatively common in Devon and Cornwall is derived from this area, but how could Didymus evolve from Didham? Perhaps from a family who were living in the manor house (originally on the site of the farm) or in a house close to or in Didham Wood: In the age when surnames were starting to become hereditary, a resident may have been referred to as “John-from-Didham-House”. In the local dialect this could eventually be shortened to John Didam’ouse. After hearing the name pronounced with a West Country accent, it’s easy to see how some scribes would have used the biblical spelling in these early records.
It seems that there was little tolerance for women who gave birth out of wedlock: For example Mary’s (John’s wife’s) mother is referred to twice in the register – but never by name. The first occasion was on her death in 1665 when the parish entry is stark: “The mother of said Mary Didymous was a bastard and was buried this day May”. Two years after her death when Mary’s own daughter (also Mary) was baptised, the minister had not forgotten, writing, “This Mary had a bastard grandmother but found the faith". Hopefully a different cleric was incumbent twenty-six years later when young Mary also gave birth to a son (Richard) without being married.
Richard and Mably’s eldest son was also Richard (bn.1699). After his mother’s conviction he moved to nearby Stoke Gabriel where he married Winifred Hooper (also known as Wilmot) in 1732 and had four offspring. The family were probably paupers since local officials apprenticed all of their children out in their early teens to ensure that they would not become a burden on the parish funds. In theory children of poor families could be apprenticed to learn a variety of trades but most were listed as learning housewifery or husbandry, which in practice meant that they just acted as unpaid servants or labourers. It’s not known what became of Richard’s family once their apprenticeships were over.
The last mention of the surname in Devon appears in the Stoke Gabriel church record on the 4th October 1789, when Susanna Dydimus married John Burk. The male line seems to have died out in Devon sometime during the second half of the 17th century and there is no record of any native Didymus living in the county when the National Birth, Marriage and Death indexes are first compiled in 1837.
While there is still a possibility that they are descended from the one of the Devon Didymus (perhaps when Mably Didymus was deported to Virginia in 1729, she may have been followed by her husband or a son), it’s more likely that this family name originated from one given by a slave boss to one of his captives. For example in 1817, Earle Romney, a slave owner of the island of St. Christopher registers Thomas Dydimus, a Creole slave aged 1. Also shortly before the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean in 1834, William Byram a slaver in Antigua registers at least two slaves with the single name “Didymus”.
I intend to add links to transcripts of relavent entries in parish registers from Hampshire and Devon in this section. But all other data is currently either in paper form or consolidated into a large excel spreadsheet. However I will be happy to reply to any specific questions regarding the Didymus family (prior to 1900). I am also researching many of the decendents of females in the family so I may also be able to provide details regarding related families. In addition I have extensive information on the Diddams family of North Hampshire which I have needed to investigate to "eliminate them from my enquiries".
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