Faulder Family Genealogy Faulder Family Genealogy

7 September, 2021

The Blizard Name

My mother’s adoptive mother’s paternal grandfather (my Grandmother’s Grandfather) was William Blizard Williamson (born Cork, Ireland 1811, died Worcester, England 1878). He had two sons: William Blizard Williamson (the younger) and George Henry Williamson – my grandmother’s father.

I have written previously about them. This post ponders the origin of the Blizard name in our family tree and whether knowing that helps identify further ancestors or the geographical origin of the Williamsons. (There is a rumour that they may have originated in England and another that they originated in Londonderry.)

This post summarises what I know about the name (not much) and what I would like to know. It is a work-in-progress both in terms of research and content editing. Suggestions are very welcome!

This post also details the genealogy of Sir William Blizard (1743-1835), a surgeon and founder of the first medical school attached to a hospital, The London Hospital. It may be that William Blizard Williamson was named after this famous person, but if anyone reading this identifies a genealogical link between the two of them … .

On the other hand, perhaps he was born during a blizzard?

Usually second forenames can honour the names of ancestors. The Presbyterian naming convention is fairly well known and usually relates to ancestors’ Christian names. Elsewhere the second name could be the surname of an ancestor (often going back some way as a “family name”).

Alternatively a family can acquire an unusual name to honour some public figure who was notable at the time of the birth of a child. (For example, after the Battle of Trafalgar, a number of children where given the name Horatio or Nelson).

Usually the name appears with a single “z”, but sometimes with a double “z”, “Blizzard”. There are also variants such as “Bleazard”. Some of these may be due to officials guessing the spelling, but “Blizard” and “Blizzard” seem to cover the vast majority of occurrences.

1. Distribution of the Biz(z)ard Name

Various databases will give analyses of the geographical distribution of a surname. Most of these are based on a specific census – which has the benefit of counting everyone once at a particular point in time – something that is not possible with earlier record sets such as parish records. To look at the origins of a name given at a 1811 Baptism we have to however either use census records and process them according to the person’s recorded age (and implied year of birth), or we have to use Parish Records for baptisms – which are not as complete as for Census records.

Most databases providing analyses of geographical distribution also claim that most people where fairly immobile so a distribution based on, say, the 1881 census will probably be typical of earlier times. Whilst this may be true overall it ignores migrations such as those associated with the Irish Famine in the 1840’s and migrations internal to England (such as resulting from the decline of tin mining, or bonded miners moving around a coalfield).

1.1. Bliz(z)ard Forename: England

If a name was used “in honour” of someone outside the family we might expect to see a peak around the time the honoured person was famous.

Any analysis of the distribution of a forename has to be derived from the raw data in one of the main genealogical databases.

Find My Past has the advantage, unlike the Genealogist, Ancestry, or Family Search of being able to search for “Bliz*ard” as one of the forenames (without variants) in “Baptism records” – irrespective of specific source. Looking at English Baptism records on Find My Past we find 114 Baptisms, which after eliminating duplicates gives us 63 individuals baptised between 1709 and 1909. The distribution shows a number of “William Blizards”:

Pivot Chart from Author’s analysis of Forename = “Bliz*ard” baptisms on Find My Past in England

If we focus on just the Forenames William Blizard (and variants) we see:

Pivot Chart from Author’s analysis of Variants on Forenames = “William Bliz*ard” baptisms on Find My Past in England

Looking at these by County of Baptism:

Count – Baptism YearCounty
Baptism YearLancashireLondonSurreyWiltshireTotal Result
Total Result23117
Pivot Table from Author’s analysis of Variants on Forenames = “William Bliz*ard” baptisms on Find My Past in England, analysed by year and county of baptism
14 May 1795Camberwell St Giles, SurreyWB Smith aHenryEsther Beavisis Beavis the mother’s maiden name?
12 Feb 1809Holborn, LondonWB Stanley bEdwardSusanna
18 Jan 1810St Pancras, LondonWB Curling bDanielElizabeth Gt Nephew of Sir WB
10 Apr 1815Alderton, WiltshireWB Bristow c /BristonThos, Poor PersonMaryBT: 16 Apr 1815
25 Apr 1834Bermondsey, “London”WB Phillips bWilliamMary Anne
26 Oct 1851Rochdale, LancashireWB Hargreaves bWilliamEsther Ann
30 Jan 1901Radcliffe, St Thomas, LancashireWB Wolstenholme dThomasAlice Ann
Search for Forename = “Bliz*ard” on Find My Past, Results for Parish Baptisms in Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records
Sources relating to the above table

a Find My Past: “Surrey Baptisms”

b Find My Past: “England Births & Baptisms 1538-1975”

c Find My Past: “Wiltshire Baptisms Index 1530-1917”

d Find My Past: “England, Greater Manchester Baptisms 1571-1910”

1.2. Bliz(z)ard Forename: Ireland

Attempting to do something similar with Ireland is hampered by access to sufficient records.

Family Search returns one Irish record for Forename = Bliz(z)ard: A Probate Record for Blizard Grimshaw of Co Antrim – undated but from “Ireland Landed Estate Court Files, 1850-1885”. PRONI show a Co Down Probate record for Conway Blizard Grimshaw, died 18 Dec 1869. From an Ireland, Encumbered Estates, 1850-1885 Ancestry record for Robert and Conway Blizard Grimshaw, these would appear to be the same person.

The best source would seem again to be Find My Past Probate Records (the few burial and death records relate to individuals in the Probate Records). After eliminating duplicates, we are left with:

  • Thomas Blizard Reford
    • Probate Granted 1855 (Down & Connor Diocese)
  • Anthony Blizard Reford (named in the above will as “eldest son”)
    • principal beneficiary in Will of Martha Reford d 1880 – Probate Granted in Co Antrim
    • d 18 Feb 1890, Probate in Co Antrim 11 Apr 1890 (date per PRONI)
  • Conway Blizard Grimshaw d 18 Dec 1869
    • Probate Granted in Co Down 4 Feb 1870 (date per PRONI)
    • Also an alternative beneficiary in 1866 Will of James Grimshaw
  • Mary Blizard Ferguson d 25 Sep 1890
    • Probate Granted in Co Down 8 Dec 1890 (date per PRONI)

In addition PRONI also has a more recent Probate record for Dorothy Blizard Scott d 6 May 1963, Probate granted in Belfast 28 July 1963.

In addition Ancestry Ireland has four street directory entries (Thom’s 1867/8/9/70) for a Geo Blizard Abbott, a junior examiner in the Exchequer and Audit Department of the Civil Service at Somerset House England. He is included in the previous English analysis.

1.3. Bliz(z)ard Surname

In Ireland, where we first find William Blizard Williamson, the Blizard surname appears to be fairly rare. John Grenham’s Irish Ancestors website, shows 11 Blizard births between 1864 and 1913:

There are a further 3 Blizzard births recorded in this period, 2 in Dublin and 1 in Castletownbere in South West Cork.

If the Blizards are a more distant relative of the Williamsons it is probable that the relationship originated in England. There is some suspicion that when William Blizard Williamson was born the Williamsons may not have been in Ireland for very many generations.

For England and Wales the following analyses are available:

Because The Genealogist’s analyses can be done on a variety of years, it has been used to give an indicative base for the distribution of both “Blizard” and “Blizzard”. Initially a review will be done just by year of census.

Census Year“Blizard”“Blizzard”Total
Distribution of Census entries for specified surnames in the Genealogist Transcriptions of England and Wales Census records

Mapping these (using the functionality within The Genealogist) gives:

"Blizard" Distribution in 1841
Census per the Genealogist
“Blizard” Distribution in 1841
Census per the Genealogist
"Blizard" Distribution in 1881
Census per the Genealogist
“Blizard” Distribution in 1881
Census per the Genealogist
"Blizard" Distribution in 1911
Census per the Genealogist
“Blizard” Distribution in 1911
Census per the Genealogist
"Blizzard" Distribution in 1841
Census per the Genealogist
“Blizzard” Distribution in 1841
Census per the Genealogist
"Blizzard" Distribution in 1881
Census per the Genealogist
“Blizzard” Distribution in 1881
Census per the Genealogist
"Blizzard" Distribution in 1911
Census per the Genealogist
“Blizzard” Distribution in 1911
Census per the Genealogist

Whilst these maps are useful to indicate “clusters” of a surname they need to be interpreted with care; the colour is important, not the amount of the colour. For instance the large red area that is Yorkshire could be an even spread across the county or it could be concentrated in say Leeds/Bradford. In 1881 the small London red area represents more people that the large Yorkshire red area.

The setting of the scales also can cause “flooding out” at the top end because the top range can cover to over 400.

The table below shows the sum of occurrence of the surnames “Blizard” and “Blizzard” for three censuses.

County 184118811911
Northern Total309+40=349531+78=609753+110=863
West Midlands Total191+161=352256+255=511306+305=611
London Total117+100=217152+136=188175+170=345
Total England & Wales708+376=11641137+627+17641634+876=2510
Analysis of possible clusters of “Bliz(z)ard”s in 1841/81/1911 Census transcripts on The Genealogist
(For comparison there are 580 Faulder census records for 1911 on the Genealogist)

The table above shows that the balance of the spelling of the surname can vary considerably, in some areas being almost equally distributed (suspiciously so?) whilst in other areas (particularly the North) there is a clear preponderance of the single “z” spelling.

When the Williamsons came from Ireland to the UK in the 1840 they were first found in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey and they eventually settled in Worcester. Whether these choices may have had anything to do with Blizard family links is as yet unknown.

2. An Ancestral Name

I do not yet know much about William Blizard Williamson (the elder)’s ancestors; I believe his father was probably Thomas Williamson and at the moment I know nothing about his mother – her maiden name may even have been Blizard.

However I cannot find any marriages between a Williamson and a Blizard – on Family Search, Find My Past or Ancestry. The link may be through a yet unknown maternal line (such as a “Blizard” maternal grandmother marrying someone unknown whose daughter then married a Williamson).

3. An Honouring Name

William Blizard Williamson (the elder) was born in Cork in about 1811 (ref: later census records and his obituary). He may have been Brethren and we know that in the mid nineteenth century he was active in English Trade Union activity. Assuming his parents shared his religious and political views, were there any famous people of that name (Blizard) active at the time of William’s birth?

Internet searches for “historical Blizards” return multiple items for “Sir William Blizard”.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography lists for Blizard:

Blizard, Thomas,
1772–1838Relative of William Blizard
Blizard, Sir William,
bap. 1744, d. 1835
Williamson, William Blizard,
tinplate and sheet metal manufacturer
1810/11–1878My maternal Grandmother’s Paternal Grandfather
Williamson, William Blizard,
tinplate and sheet metal manufacturer
1839/40–1895My maternal Grandmother’s Paternal Uncle
“Blizard” Entries in Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography
online search 23 December 2020
(No entries for “Blizzard”)

3.1. Sir William Blizard

This Wikimedia file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Sir William Blizard was an eminent surgeon who lived from 1742 to 1835.

  • Surgeon to The London Hospital from 1780,6
  • Founded England’s first hospital-based medical school (The London Hospital Medical College) in 1785,6
  • Founded the Samaritan Society (the first medical social work society) in 1791,6
  • Founded and president of the Hunterian Society in 1819,8
  • Active in politics, supporter of the radical journalist and MP John Wilkes,7
  • Campaigned against child labour in the cotton industry mills,8
  • Knighted in 1803 and elected President of The Royal College of Surgeons in 1822.6

Most of these events occurred before the naming of William Blizard Williamson (1811). Would his eminence have lead to WBW being named after him? Would the link be the radical politics or that of a medic treating a patient?

Alternatively he might be genealogically related to the Williamsons.

William Blizard’s parents were William Blizard and his wife Elizabeth Robinson1. He was born at Barn Elms which is a district in the Parish of Barnes which was in Surrey at the time of his birth. He was baptised at St Mary’s Barnes1.

There is some debate about his siblings, but on-line Parish Records show the following children, baptised at St Mary’s Barnes, who had parents William and Elizabeth Blizard:

  • Edward (bap 12 August 1737- buried? 1738/39)5;
  • Elizabeth (bap 19 November 1738)5;
  • Theodosia (bap 1 February 1740/41 – buried 1772)5;
  • William (bap 19 February 1743/444, 26 February 17441 – died 18351);
  • Joseph (bap 1746)5;

The alternative dates for William’s baptism seem to arise from the DNB date being erroneously the date for the next entry in the parish register. (Images from both what look like a Parish Register and a Transcript of similar date – confirm the date as 19th February 1744 – Gregorian).

In some cases there are also burials in the register which might relate to these baptisms. I think we can be confident that the Theodosia burial is the same person as the baptism; Edward may not be, but probably is. Sight of the actual registers may reveal detail such as “the son of William Blizard” which would give more certainty.

The DNB says he was “the third of four sons and the fourth child” of William and Elizabeth1 – which would be consistent with the above listing.

A memoir read before the Hunterian Society, October 7th, 1835, states (citing friends) he was “the youngest but one of five children of William Blizard, an auctioneer”10.

The Royal College of Surgeons in England online SurgiCat database states that he was the fourth son11 citing “Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 5, 1886.” – which leaves open the possibility of an as yet unlisted elder brother.

William’s parents are probably the William Blizard and Elizabeth Robinson who were married in St Mary’s Barnes on 13 Jul 17363. (The online image of the register shows “of this parish” and not previously married).

3.2. Other Relatives of Sir William

There are a number of sources that mention relatives of Sir William Blizard.

3.2.1. Sir William’s will

The Will of Sir William Blizard9 was probated 5 March 1856 and mentions:

my dearly beloved wife, Lady Jane (sp?) Blizard
“my dearly beloved wife, Lady Jane (sp?) Blizard”
beloved ? Elizabeth Curling
“beloved ? Elizabeth Curling”
widow of the late Daniel [end of line]
“widow of the late Daniel”
[beginning of line] Curling Esquire
“Curling Esquire”
Secretary to the Customs
“Secretary to the Customs”
the children of the said Elizabeth Curling
“the children of the said Elizabeth Curling”

Daniel and Elisabeth Curling are the parents of a family including Thomas Blizard Curling (1811 to 1888), another surgeon. The relationship to Sir William Blizard (1743 to 1835) is not clear given the 68 year difference in year of birth.

Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows, the Royal College of Surgeons of England implies the relationship is uncle/nephew:

“Born in Tavistock Place, London, on Jan. 1st, 1811, the son of Daniel Curling, F.S.A., Secretary to the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs, and Elizabeth, daughter of William Blizard and sister of Sir William Blizard.”

“Thomas Blizard Curling” in Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows, the Royal College of Surgeons of England (Identifier: RCS: E000199 [online – accessed 27 January 2021])

Wikipedia states “through the influence of his surgeon great uncle, Sir William Blizard,”8 – which given the dates is a more realistic relationship. However the source cited by Wikipedia is a public domain 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article – which repeats the uncle/nephew relationship:

CURLING, THOMAS BLIZARD (1811-1888), British surgeon, was born in London in 1811. Through his uncle, Sir William Blizard, he became assistant-surgeon to the London hospital in 1833, becoming full surgeon in 1849.

“Thomas Blizard Curling” in 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica [online on Wikisource – accessed 27 January 2021]

The problem with the Uncle/nephew relationship is that his mother (who would be the sister of Sir William Blizard) was born, according to the parish records cited earlier, in 1738. This would mean that in 1811 when she gave birth to Thomas Blizard Curling she would have been 71 – which is very unlikely (adoptive relationships excluded) – you would expect to see one or even two intervening generations.

We would expect the Sir William’s Will which refers to Elizabeth Curling widow of Daniel Curling (i.e. Thomas Blizard Curling’s parents) to define their relationship accurately – but it is hard to read – is it sister or niece?

beloved ? ELizabeth Curling
“beloved ? Elizabeth Curling”, Extract from Sir William Blizard’s Will cited above

If it says niece, that would put a one generation gap between Sir William Blizard and Thomas Blizard Curling creating a Great Uncle / Great Nephew relationship.

3.2.2. Parish Records

Trying to go back another generation, there is a St Mary’s baptism for a William Blizard on 31 December 1702 (born 2 days previously)4,5. The parents are listed as Thomas and Elizabeth4,5. However there is a William Blizard (age unknown) buried at St Mary’s on 29 August 17305.

The online version of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in its listing for Thomas Blizard2 states that they shared a John Blizard as their grandfather.

Blizard, Thomas (1772–1838), surgeon, was a pupil of Sir William Blizard, who was both his brother-in-law and half-cousin through their grandfather John Blizard.

G. T. Bettany, (revised by Jean Loudon), Extract for: Blizard, Thomas (1772–1838) in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [online – accessed 27 December 2020]

Sources relating to Sir William Blizard

1 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) “Blizard, Sir William (bap. 1744, d. 1835) surgeon” [Accessed 2021-01-03]

2 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) “Blizard, Thomas (1772–1838) surgeon” [Accessed 2021-01-03]

3 Find My Past “Surrey Marriages” – Surrey County Council, Surrey History Centre, reference P6/1/2

4 Find My Past “Surrey Baptisms” – Surrey County Council, Surrey History Centre, reference P6/1/3

5 Free Reg online transcriptions of Parish Registers and Bishops’ Transcripts

6 QMUL Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, “The origins of the Medical School: Sir William Blizard (1743 – 1835)” [Accessed 2021-01-03]

7 QMUL Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, “Blizard Institute – Barts and The London: Sir William Blizard” [Accessed 2021-01-03]

8 Wikipedia: “William Blizard” [Accessed 2021-01-03]

9 Will of Sir William Blizard, Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers. Digitized images. Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11. Piece Description: Piece 1858: Stowell, Quire Numbers 101-150 (1836), The National Archives, Kew, England. [online at Ancestry Accessed 27 January 2021]

10 “A brief memoir of Sir William Blizard … surgeon … read before the Hunterian Society, October 7th, 1835, with additional particulars of his life and writings” by Cooke William, 1785-1873; Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh [online at Web Archive, digitalised by JISC and Welcome Library – accessed 27 January 2021]

11 Surgicat, “Blizard, Sir William (1743-1835)”, Royal College of Surgeons in England, ref: MS0170 [online – accessed 27 January 2021]

4. Name Frequencies

4.1. Forename or Surname

On Family Search (LDS) searching Records for First Names or Surname include “Blizard” or “Blizzard” in either Irish or English records gives a fair number of records. Records do not necessarily equate to people (a person can have baptism, marriage and death records and in England records can get duplicated in national and county collections and as parish registers and as bishops transcripts).

LocationBlizardBlizzard Total
England *34972421
Wales *29534
Occurrence of the First Names “Blizard” and “Blizzard” in Family Search records for the Locations stated
* indicates some double counting because of “England and Wales” record sets
LocationBlizardBlizzard Total
England *110061022421230
Wales *392453845
Occurrence of the Surname “Blizard” and “Blizzard” in Family Search records for the Locations stated
* indicates some double counting because of “England and Wales” record sets

It is possible to download the Family Search data and within a spreadsheet to use pivot tables to try and analyse the records by:

  • Surname
  • Complete Forenames (looking particularly for “William Blizard”)
  • County
  • Date (possibly by decade)
  • Record Type

However due to some people appearing multiple times the knowledge arising might be out of proportion to the effort.

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