ONE of Britain’s foremost surnames experts lives in Huddersfield.
Dr George Redmonds is a wizard at extracting the origin of people’s names from what appears to the layman to be the slimmest of evidence.
He is in the process of putting together a comprehensive dictionary of Yorkshire surnames at the moment.
But even he is sometimes flummoxed by monikers. One such, he tells me, is the name Moodycliffe.
It’s not that nothing is known about the surname. George has tracked it to source – the picturesque village of Bradfield south of Penistone and not far from the Strines.
“I have examples from 1351,” said George. “The name was always uncommon but had arrived in the Huddersfield area by the 16th century and the only person with the name in the West Riding hearth tax of 1672 was John Mouldcliffe, of Holmfirth.
“In the census of 1881 there were several variants but in total they amounted to only 35 in the whole of the British Isles!
“The spelling Moodycliffe was the most frequent of the variants and it was found almost exclusively in the Huddersfield area – but I find no trace of it here now.”
George found that the International Genealogical Index – a database of genealogical records compiled from several sources and maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – has only 18 references and they relate to individuals in the 19th century in Upperthong, Wooldale and other Holmfirth fringe villages.
He also noted that the greatest current concentration of male bearers of the surname is now in Dumfriesshire.
There is even a department store there – S G Moodycliffe.
So the questions in George’s mind are: what happened to our local Moodycliffes? Did they die out?
At what stage did the remnants of the ‘family’ decide to set up shop – literally, in one instance – in the Scottish Borders?