In researching my family history, I have seen many names change as people misspell them, Americanize them, or they change because part of the name is no longer important or does not exactly apply. The Spencer name has taken many twists and turns, going from being an occupational name, when it was Despencer, to a French sounding version when it was Le deSpencer, to the name we all now recognize following the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles in London on July 29, 1981. One of the most interesting things I found with the Spencer name is when it was hyphenated, and for some reason, many people did not realize that it was a hyphenated name. Many people think that Winston Spencer Churchill’s last name was Churchill, but that is really not the case. His name really was Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

In 1700, following the 1698 death of his first wife, Arabella Cavendish, Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland married his second wife, Anne Churchill, who was the daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. This was an important alliance for Sunderland and for his descendants. Through it, he was introduced to political life and later the dukedom of Marlborough came to the Spencers. It would seem that this alliance was important enough to keep the Churchill name in the marriage, because their children also carried the name originally.

The Spencer family divided into two branches at this point. The older children kept the Spencer-Churchill, and later Churchill name in many cases, and the younger children continued on with the Spencer name. From the Spencer-Churchill branch, came Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, who went by Winston Churchill as often as he went by Winston Spencer Churchill. I have not really found any evidence that he personally went by Winston Spencer-Churchill, although there are some documents about him that correctly list his name that way.

Princess Diana’s line came from the youngest son of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, whose name was John Spencer. This branch of the family took the correct name, which was Spencer, without the hyphenated addition of the  Churchill name, no matter how important the alliance of the two families was at the time of their joining. In researching the lines of a family, the thing that makes it the most difficult is the altering of the original names, because it makes it difficult to be sure we are following the lines correctly

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