What’s in a name?

"What name, sir?" enquired the polite assistant."Joyes. J-0-Y-E-S."

The assistant quickly wrote the name on the Order Form: Joyce.

"No," I interrupted. "J-0-Y-E-S."

She looked at what she had written and made a correction by interposing a 'c' between the 'y' and the 'e'.

It now read Joyces.

"No," I tried again "J-0-Y-E-S."

The attentive assistant looked hard again at the name she had written. A further amendment was made so that the name was now written as Joys. At least one could accept that as a variant. However, in the circumstances there was need for accuracy.

"J-0-Y-E-S," I repeated, even more slowly than earlier.

With a sense of honest resignation to failure, the young lady turned the Order Form round and said "You write it, please."

The situation revealed the reliance that we place upon the known to provide us with a model for future action. It also reveals the tendency to override what we hear with that which is stored in the memory. Amendment of the taken-for-granted is not an easy cognitive exercise.

When those amongst our forebears who did not have the advantage of literacy went to the local vicar or curate to announce a birth, or a death, or to seek a marriage, the local incumbent would have experienced a similar situation as that which confronted our friendly shop assistant, except that there was no one to correct what he wrote. He, too, would have drawn upon his memory of what had gone before and would, therefore, have perpetuated any errors that had occurred. Add to this the accents employed naturally by those who sought the incumbent's attention and one begins to understand the way in which variations of a name so easily occur, even within the same family. Variants of the name Joyes are several, but perhaps one can eliminate one spelling which is often taken to be a variant, but which is probably of different origin. The reference here is to the name which was first written by our shop assistant, for it is by far the most common: Joyce. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) has unfortunately served to maintain the Joyes/Joyce equivalence by listing Joyes under Joyce.

It is argued by many that Joyes has Irish origins in Galway, where the name is used interchangeably by some commentators with Joyce, although it is more usually found in the Joyce form. One wonders if the soft Irish accent has lulled those commentators - and possibly the authors of IGI - into a false conclusion. The softness of the Irish tongue leaves little phonetic difference between Joyce and Joyes. There are tales of journeys from Wales to Ireland and of the inter-marriage with an established and influential family. Subsequently, there is the elevation of a descendant of the line to high rank in the church and even of assistance in the production of the Tyndale Bible on the Continent. However, one views such evidence sceptically in that it is not substantiated. It remains in the world of hear-say.

There is, on the other hand, documented evidence offered by Reaney, P.H., in his work The Origins of English Surnames (RK&P, London, 1967). Here (pp. 33 and 149) he does not give Joyce and Joyes as having identical derivations. Joyce is noted, along with Josse, Joysey and Jowsey (with the significant absence of Joyes), as being derived from Old Breton Jodoc, a saint, the son of Judicael, who had a hermitage at the modern Josse-sur-Mer. It is true that Joyes does not gain mention in that work, but reference to Reaney's earlier work, A Dictionary of British Surnames (RK&P, 1958), provides the following quotation: "...Joy, Joye, Joyes... fit/us Joye 1186 (Pipe Rolls, Lincolnshire); Joia 1195 (Fleet of Fines Essex)... Either from Joia, a fairly frequent woman's name, or from the common noun 'joy'. Joie was also masculine...". Moreover, one could deduce from the text, concerning the use of forenames as family names and the use of the genitival 's', in Reaney 1967, that Joyes is very likely to be derived from the French 'joie', which would effectively distance it from the noted derivation of Joyce.

Interestingly, there is seated at Campagnac, in the Aveyron, France, a Joyes family that dates itself back to the Hundred Years' War. The legend suggests that an English soldier remained in France and began the dynasty, but that is unsubstantiated and must remain in the realms of mythology. The French Joyes have, nevertheless, grown and spread, although most of its members reside within a 35 kilometre reach of the family's noted origin. One member who has moved north is Claire Joyes, who married the great-nephew of Claude Monet and who has been responsible for the renovation of Monet's house and garden at Giverny, in northern France. It was at Giverny that Monet painted the many versions of his lilies. Claire ]oyes has written several finely illustrated books on the cuisine and the gardens of the house in the time of Monet and has in this way cast new light on the impressionist painter for whom the fall of light was so important.

To-date there has been no evidence discovered to connect the French Joyes with the various English families. That is a matter for further in-depth research. There is also difficulty in linking the several Joyes families within England. While there are major outcrops in Berkshire and Linconshire, as well as incidence of several families in other widely placed locations (how they arrived there is still a mystery), the main source of the family name would seem to be in Sussex and centring upon Billingshurst and its environs. As suggested, the various families haling from that area do not all find connection and this is again a matter for further research. One major line is identified on this website and can demonstrate direct lineage with persons in New Zealand and in Australia. Another can be dated back to the early 18th Century and found its way into Twickenham, Middlesex, where a hundred years ago they were commercially prosperous in retail and distribution, so much so that one Joyes-person could afford to organise and transport local children without charge on an annual day trip. From this group of Joyes families, there has emerged through marriage a growing Joyes group in Glasgow. The writer's own family line begins in Washington and Billingshurst. Its members moved eventually to Silvertown, in east London, in the second half of the 19th Century and thence to Wanstead, Woodford and Epping, while, in 1911, one member emigrated to Saskatchewan, where he fathered a thriving dynasty. The common origin of these three major, well populated lines is known, yet there can be found no link between them. This is, indeed, a source of great frustration.

As well as detailing the major families, Joyes research is littered with brief family trees that must surely link into the main arteries at some point, but exactly where is ever elusive. One interesting family seems to arise in the Croydon area. Croydon, like Reigate, was an area through which Joyes groups seemed to pass as they progressed northwards to the Thames and beyond in a population drift, which was no doubt forced by the seeking of employment. A particular Joyes person of Croydon served in the army in the Boer Wars and was apparently known to Churchill during the conflict. Subsequently, he emigrated to Ontario and became the proud owner of a newly invented farming machine. A mechanical wizard, he was in great demand from other farmers, especially those of Norwegian decent, probably because he had married one of their number. His descendants moved over the border into Montana, where they continue to own land. One, however, has moved back to Toronto, where he is an archivist.

Perhaps, in conclusion, the writer might be allowed a personal story that, nevertheless, demonstrates the lack of liaison between the various Joyes lines. Elsewhere on this Website will be found reference to A.E. Joyes' retail outlet in Grays, Essex. The Joyes sales slogan, "When the sheets are short, the bed seems longer", was used somewhat differently by my father as a saying to suggest difficulties of domestic cashflow. The important point, though, is that my father had no knowledge of A.E. Joyes' store and the latter's use of the slogan. Two members of different strands of the Joyes clan shared independently the same slogan. Does this indicate a wider family common knowledge, a residual memory of an earlier social intercourse?

There is mention of one Peggy Joyes, who used before WW2 to frequent (with her mother) the Joyes store in Grays. Peggy is the writer's sister-in-law. Early in her marriage to his late brother, she visited the store to make purchases. She made an order and, on giving her newly-acquired married name, she was treated with what she describes as "unexpected respect", even for those times of common civility. What is also certain is that she did not have the same problem, relating to the exact spelling of Joyes, as the frustrated customer whom we encountered earlier. The assistant's receptive facility was not tested by a previously unknown name. It was, after all, the name of her employer and it was emblazoned across the front of the store. She was immediately able correctly to write the name. Other possible spellings, other experiences, did not affect her response.


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Joyes Department Store, New Road Grays c1970

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