Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Molley Ussel

Molley Ussel, 1756, Duxbury
DECd FEBry ye 22d
1756: O.S. AGED
18 Years & 1 MONTH

Here is an interesting bit of carving. This stone was carved by a member of the Soule family using mostly capital letters. The surname is rendered as UFFEL, with two capital Fs. Yet, Duxbury vital statistics indicate that the deceased's name was actually Molly Ussel. It would not be unusual to render Ussel using the long s in writing with lower-case letters, but I have never seen a double long s transcribed as two capital Fs on any other stone.


Robert J. said...

Very curious. Thinking out loud, here's a conjecture: I bet the carver (who is clearly skilled) was working from a written order and didn't personally know the family in question (and so had never heard their name spoken). The order may have been incorrect or ambiguous -- probably written in lowercase script, where the s's and the f's could be easily confused.

Textual scholars commonly distinguish between two types of errors: errors of the eye and errors of the ear. This is clearly an error of the eye, and wouldn't have been made if the sound of the name was known and/or heard. That implies that the carver was working (reading) from a written text.


J. L. Bell said...

I’m not familiar with either Ussel or Uffel as a surname. Is it possible that the stone is right and Winsor’s 1849 transcription is wrong? The 1911 Vital Records of Duxbury transcribed the same name as Uffel.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I've been looking around all afternoon and can't find any Ussels or Uffels outside of Winsor book and the 1911 Vital Records. Either they died out, moved away, or we've got another Martha Jue situation on our hands.

I'll have to keep that in mind about errors of the ear vs. errors of the eye. It seems like a useful way of classifying things.

Robert J. said...

We aren't the first to notice this odd name it appears. In Savage's Genealogical Dictionary I found this entry for the likely immigrant ancestor:

"USSELL, RICHARD, Portsmouth or Newport R.I. 1653-6, tho. an odd sounding name, is regard. by me as truer than SUSSELL; but the reader may take his choice, if he agrees with me, that only one man is intend. where either appears in R.I. Col. Rec. Vol. I. 263, 300, 49, 59, 60, and 5."