Monday, April 19, 2010

Do you use the proper Latin names for your ancestors?

Do you know your Avunculus from your Patruus?

Can you list your line back to your Atavus?

If not, you need the help of Sara Coleridge Coleridge's "Pretty Lesson in Latin" which she wrote for her children in 1834.

Posted by Terry Thornton

Sara Coleridge (1802 - 1852) was the daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. She married a cousin, Henry Nelson Coleridge. In 1834, Sara Coleridge Coleridge wrote and published Pretty Lessons in Verse for Good Children with Some Lessons in Latin in Easy Rhyme primarily for her children but the book was successful as others used it for instruction and inspiration. (Adapated from Sara Coleridge at Wikipedia)

In the section she calls "Pretty Lessons in Latin" Mrs. Coleridge attempts to teach her children the proper Latin names for relatives. Of course back then, all educated English-speaking people tried to teach their children the Latin names for everything --- and then the Greek names and the French and the Spanish and the German names --- as educated people set themselves apart from mere mortals through language. Professions were isolated from those they served by language --- even the services at church were said in Latin and most church-goers didn't understand but a word or phrase here and there.

I image that genealogists were no exception --- and through the use of Latin classifications of relatives, one's family tree could only be understood by those "worthy" of understanding --- those with a knowledge of Latin. Ummmm --- wonder if that is how genealogy got the reputation of being only for the hoity-toity, the self-appointed "chosen" of a society rather than for the rabble. After all it is separation from the rabble which most seekers of genealogical truth wish to establish --- or as William Faulkner probably would have said of the goal of genealogy, "To prove that one is not from poor white trash."

Those are highfalutin concepts.

Anyway I found Sara Coleridge Coleridge little lesson in Latin in easy rhyme concerning family relationships interesting. It is presented below. [The Dean of the Genea-Bloggers, Randy Seaver, will probably make a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Challenge of these Latin terms --- I'm counting on it.]

"Pretty Lesson in Latin"

by Sara Coleridge Coleridge

A Father's brother, mother's brother, are not called the same

In Latin, though an uncle is the only English name;

For patruus the first is called, from pater, I suppose;

The second is avunculus, as every scholar knows.

One kind of aunt is patrua, avuncula the other;

Privignus is a son-in-law, noverca's a stepmother.

A grandmother is avia, and nepos a grandson;

And avus is a grandfather;---your task is not yet done.

Proăvus means a great-grandfather;

Abăvus, I have been told,

Means a man's grandfather's grandfather

Who must be wond'rously old.

Atăvus---he is no lad,

He's a great grandfather's grandfather,

Trităvus means the grand-dad

Of a man's grandfather's grandfather.

From "Pretty Lessons in Latin" by Sara Coleridge Coleridge. PRETTY LESSONS IN VERSE FOR GOOD CHILDREN WITH SOME LESSONS IN LATIN IN EASY RHYME. 5th Edition. London: John W. Parker and Son. MDCCCLIII (1853), page 110 (CX).

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