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The Origin of the Name

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the surname Timms. In his two books, English Surnames, Their Sources and Significations and A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, Charles Wareing Bardsley suggests that it is a patronymic surname as are many others. In his view, Timms, Timbs, Timson and Timcock are all derived from “son of Timothy.” Similar conclusions have been reached by other authors — see Surnames of the United Kingdom by H. Harrison.

However, in the Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, edited by Reaney & Wilson, the argument is made that, since the name Timothy did not appear in England until after the Reformation (that is post 1530), Timms in its many variations could not be derived from that name. They give a possible root in the old English Tima and the old Greek, Thiemmo.

There certainly do seem to be references to the name Timms well prior to the Reformation in England in the mid 1500's. “The Great Survey” ordered by William the Conqueror in 1086, clearly predates the reformation by almost five hundred years. In English Surnames, Their Sources and Significations, Bardsley himself includes a reference to a John Timms in the Doomsday Book of St. Paul’s, published by the Camden Society. After many attempts to locate this volume I gave up. However, a kindly “internet friend”, Matt Tomkins, did some digging for me. His conclusion was that Beardsley had likely made a mistake and confused a 13th century reference to Timmings, with a 16th century reference to Timms. Whether that is correct or not, neither Matt nor I have been able to find the name Timms in the index to the Domesday Book of St. Paul’s.

Reaney and Wilson cite William, filius Tymme in the Anglo Saxon Charters 1258; an Alicia Timme in the Subsidy Rolls, Worcester in 1327; and a William Tymmes in the Subsidy Rolls, Warwickshire in 1332. My earliest find was for a "John Tymmes of Chyryton (Cherington) Rector" in a lease from 1412! Besides that, the earliest mention of the name that I have come across in a parish records was for the baptism of “Gillian Tymmes, daughter of Humffrie, April 24, 1564” in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

It seems to be generally accepted that surnames became hereditary in England in the three hundred years following the conquest. In his work The Origins of English Surnames, P.H. Reaney says that from the twelfth century, there was a sharpincrease in the growth of family names among the land-holders. Up to 1200, peasants had no fixed surnames but starting in about 1225, that became steadily more common. One hundred years later, they were general. If this is accurate and if the Doomsday Book of St. Paul’s does in fact contain a reference to John Timms as cited by Bardsley above, then the man in question must have been a land-holder at the very least.

There was a considerable variation of the spellings of surnames for many centuries. The modern form of many of our surnames is, however, probably due to the parish registers. The local vicar was often dealing with illiterates; he had no previous spelling of the name to guide him; he merely wrote down what he heard — or thought he had heard. At a time when there was no recognised system of spelling, his phonetic efforts were apt to vary. In my searches of parish registers, I have seen many different spellings for Timms, including Timmes, Times, Tymmes, Tymes and Tims. The same curate would often use different spellings for members of the same family or even the same person. Similarly, I have seen wills drawn by solicitors, or their clerks where the name has different spellings in the same document. For a more lenghty explanation of the relevance of surnames in the study of genealogy, see an excellent article at the Society of Genealogists web site.

As it happens, my personal trek into the world of genealogy started after the death of an irreplaceable relative — my aunt Vera Ellen Timms. I found some documents among her papers which triggered my curiosity as to my family origins. Several thousand hours and dollars later, I have decided to share my discoveries with anyone who is interested.

The Topography of the Name

I started my search in a village called Cherington. I did so as I had found a funeral card for a William Timms who had died in Shipston on Stour, Warwickshire, England. When I found him in the national index of deaths, I discovered that he was resident in Cherington at the time of his death. I then looked up Cherington at an LDS Family History Centre and ordered my first of many films of parish registers. To link with the LDS Church online go to http://www.familysearch.org./ The first “Timms” entry that I was able to find in Cherington was that of an Edward Tymes of Sutton under Brailes in Gloucestershire marrying an Angela Arbury of Ascott in Cherington, Warwickshire, on October 21, 1599. I have a copy of his will which can be viewed in the note associated with him in my tree. So far, I have been unable to definitively link him to my tree although I do have a theory.

As I said, Cherington is located in Warwickshire, England. It was located in the archdiocese and diocese of Worcester. According to Frank Smith in A Genealogical Gazetteer of England, Cherington was established as a parish in 1538. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Local & Family History, edited by David Hey, the majority of mediaeval English Parishes were established by 1200. In 1538, Thomas Cromwell ordered that each and every parish in England and Wales keep a record of baptisms, marriages and burials. I expect that the date picked by Smith is the date of compliance by the local curate. In her book, A Little History of Cherington and Stourton (1934) Margaret Dickins, says that at the time of the Great Survey, “Cheriton” was not mentioned therein as it was part of the manor of Brailes. If you are interested in knowing more about this book, it is now on-line at http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~simba/cherington/ Simon Bartlett has spent untold hours recreating it and making it available to us all. Congratulations and thanks Simon!

Those who are interested in learning more about Cherington and surrounding parishes should look at the Warwickshire Records at the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry (BMSGH).

As I “progressed” backwards through time, it quickly became clear that my research would not be restricted to Cherington. I found myself pouring over records for the next door parish of Whichford, with its hamlets of Stourton and Ascott. Then it was on to Sutton under Brailes, Barcheston, Todenham and Chipping Norton. All of these places are located at the junction of the shires of Warwick, Worcester, Gloucester and Oxford. At times, they have migrated from one to the other. I kept seeing the name TIMMS everywhere. I began to wonder if one could map its appearance by location. When the LDS Church brought out the 1881 UK census on CD-ROM, I saw my chance. Following the lead of others, especially those at the Guild of One Name Studies, I decided to attempt a density study on the name. There were 5,278 Timms (in all its variations) in the census. That means with a total population in England, Scotland and Wales of 30,292,388, out of every 10,000 persons, 1.74 was a Timms. That is not very high!

I also did a “density” study of the number of Timms by county. Not surprisingly, the county with the highest single density was Oxfordshire at 33.5. Next was Warwickshire at 9.55. A close third was Buckinghamshire at 9.52. Surprisingly, Northamptonshire was in fourth place at 7.29. Well back in fifth place was Berkshire at 4.70. Way back in ninth and tenth places were Worcestershire and Gloucestershire at 3.50 and 3.35 respectively. This tends to show that the name Timms originated in Oxfordshire. This conclusion is consistent with information gleaned from The Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, by Henry Brougham Guppy. He says Timms or Tims is an old Banbury name, which has long been connected with the corporation of that town. “Sarah Timms, a Quakeress of Banbury lay in prison for six months in 1656 for ‘exhorting the priest to fear the lord‘.”

I find it interesting to speculate about the state of those”Timms” who lived in and around Cherington in mediaeval times. Early documents for my family - wills mainly - refer to them as “yeoman.” Later on, that becomes “farmer.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Local & Family History, the former is defined as “prosperous working farmers below the rank of gentry, the class formerly known as “franklins.” It was generally used to indicated a farmer who was more prosperous than the average “husbandman.” By the 18th century, “farmer” came to replace “yeoman.”

What they were before and after the Conquest, and the plague known as the “Black Death” would be pure speculation. It has been estimated that the total population of England was 2,500,000 at most, at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. The Black Death arrived in England in 1348. Most historians agree that it reached Oxfordshire at Christmas of that year. By that time, England had 3,700,000 inhabitants. The mortality rate of the Black Death was horrendous. It is estimated in various parts of Europe at two-thirds to three-quarters of the population. In England it was even higher during the first wave. The population of England had only climbed back up to 2,100,000 inhabitants by the early 15th century. Were the “Timms” husbandmen, before that or perhaps “villein”? The latter held their land by agricultural services. As the Black Death resulted in a severe shortage of manpower, many villein moved up the socio-economic ladder. Obviously, I will never know.

My Timms Tree

Of course, I quickly concluded that I was no more a Timms than a Kennedy (my mother’s maiden name). Further, on my father’s side I was as much a Dunn as a Timms and on my mother’s side as much a Bryant as a Kennedy. And so on. I have probably spent as much time researching those other names. I have included much of the data regarding those trees on this site. For example, I have one family - the Haleys - back to 1576, and a related one - the Bunts - back to 1552. If you have Bunt connections, a Haley connection, an Allely connection, a Kennedy connection, etc., try going to my contacts page. I have tried to include everyone who has assisted me in the past - if I have missed someone, I apologize. Just send me an email and I will add you! Along the way, I have met many "cousins" on line. There are too many to include here but one I must mention is Steven Heard who is related through a Timms/Shepherd marriage. You might like to look at his web site.

I have recently met two Timms cousins. June Thornton (Timms) is a seventh cousin. Another, Irene Connelly (Timms), is as yet unattached to my tree. However, given her roots in the Whichford area, we will likely eventually establish a connection. You can find them both on the contacts page.

I have started my tree with a Henry Timms born about 1604 in Stourton (Stowerton), Warwickshire. As I explain in the attached note, that is quite possibly wrong, in that I cannot prove his connection to an Edward Timms born about 1662 in Stourton. Through a series of wills and parish records, I can say with reasonable certainly that Edward is my sixth great grandfather. I expect that ultimately Henry will prove to be Edward’s grandfather or great uncle, but perhaps not.

I do have a hypothesis about the connection between my Timms line and the Edward Tymes of Sutton who married Angela Arbury of Ascott in Cherington on October 21, 1599. Edward died in 1630 and made his will on August 25, 1629. My theory starts with what I have reasons to believe is an error in the work of Margaret Dickins. Ms. Dickins makes several references to a marriage in 1658 between a Margaret Tymes of Cherington and an Anthony Dickins of Cherington. As the only child of her father Edward Tymes, Margaret inherited all of his property in his will dated November 15, 1639. By cross referencing this will with that of the Edward Tymes who died in 1630, it becomes clear that the earlier Edward was the second Edward's father. From the wills it is clear that he was the one who bought the land that eventually passed to Margaret Tymes and then Anthony Dickins. Now the first Edward had another son, named Henry. My hypothesis is that the Henry with whom I have begun my tree, who was born about 1604, could be this son. It is also possible that my Henry could have been the son of the earlier Edward's brother John, who was living in Ascot in 1629 when Edward made his will. To complete my theory, Henry is the grandfather of the Edward Timms who married Judith Mason in Barcheston on December 21, 1701. The rest is just history after that!

As is the case with most amateur genealogists, my work is always "in progress". I have decided to publish it notwithstanding. Consequently, not all source citations are complete. Rest assured, however, that I seldom relied upon hearsay or information from others with little or no substantiation. When I do "guess" I say so.

Those who conclude that they are not connected with my Timms tree might try looking at the Timms Family Genealogy Forum, where others seeking Timms connections post their queries.

Finally I would like to put in a "plug" for the site All the Cotswolds. Quite recently, I have been contacted by several distantly- related persons, due to them finding my interests posted there.

Without further ado, please enter here. Good hunting to all!

Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell, 1843-1898
English Surnames, Their Sources and Significations 3rd ed.
Rutland, Vermont: C.E. Tuttle Co., 1968
A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, rev. for the press by his widow
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967
originally published London, 1901
Dickins, Margaret
A Little History of Cherington and Stourton (1934)
Guppy, Henry Brougham, 1854-1926
The Homes of Family Names in Great Britain
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968, 1890
Harrison, H.
Surnames of the United Kingdom
London, 1912-18; as cited in Reaney & Wilson
Hey, David, ed.
The Oxford Dictionary of Local & Family History
Oxford University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-19-860080-1
Reaney, P. H.
The Origins of English Surnames
Reaney, P.H. with corrections and additions by Wilson, R.M.
A Dictionary of English Surnames, revised 3rd edition
Oxford University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-19-860092-5
Smith, Frank
A Genealogical Gazetteer of England
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1987
Warwickshire Records
at the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry (BMSGH)
FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Guild of One Name Studies
Timms Family Genealogy Forum at Genealogy.com
where others seeking Timms connections post their queries
Jean Ashfield's genealogy index
for information about the Bunt family
Steven Heard
another Timms family researcher

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