Family Lessons 72: Avelyn of Wigglesworth


My 10x great-grandmother was Aveline Nelson, who died at Wigglesworth in 1682. There is little about her I can tell you, other than her husband was born in 1622, so I guess she was around 60 when she received the call to judgement. Most women of that period, at least in my family tree, are invariably called Jane, Mary, Agnes and Isabel. Aveline is quite unusual, and set me to wondering its etymology. In the Long Preston register of deaths, it is spelt a little differently:

1682 18 Jan, Avelyne wf William Nelson of Wigglesworth

It is likely a Latin variant of Evelyn, and may come from avis meaning ‘bird’. If one assumes a Norman French origin to be more likely, it translates ‘desired’, or even ‘island or water’. If it is related to Eva, which seems a fair possibility, it derives from our first mother’s name, Eve. What inspired a Yorkshire yeoman or working father to give their Jacobean child so exotic a name, I cannot tell. She had at least four children from 1657 til 1668, which might suggest she was younger than her husband. As a youth, she may well have been comely and beautiful, ‘desired’ not just by her hubby William, but by others thereabouts. As time passed, her looks she lost, and also her free movement, as her body aged and her agility declined. No bird, this older Aveline, hobbling about on a wooden stick.

When we desire other people, we see their present beauty and are disappointed by their future decline. When Christ sees us, He beholds our current ugliness, but anticipates the glorious splendour we shall one day share with Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2