Starling Family

My name is Sally Roberts and I am the Great-Grand-daughter of Hiltonians, Henry Arthur Bedford and Sarah Kate Starling. Both my grandmother and mother kept in close contact with the village despite being born in London, a tradition that the family still maintains with visits to Hilton whenever we can. A family picnic under the trees on the Green usually contains a grand-daughter, two great grand-daughters, four great-great grandchildren, and now two great-great-great grandsons of the Bedford and Starling marriage....


This branch of the family's surname see-sawed between Starling and Starnell, and continued to do so over hundreds of years. I first became aware of the flexibility of it whilst chatting with my Nan at a young age. She didn't know why it was done, her sister, my grand-auntie Doll, thought it was to do with the family wanting to sound more grand but either way, the name had been interchangeable throughout their mother's lifetime, for her and the rest of the family.

It was something that was thought of as rather mysterious, and the choice of surname seemed a strange one to have latched on to. Over the years of my research, I gradually came to find that it wasn't just my great-grandmother's generation, nor just my great-great grandfather's generation, but it had been happening for quite some time prior and, sometimes, not just to our Starling line of descendancy. I had seen old parish records for Bedfordshire Starlings that noted 'alias Starnell'. Eventually, I find out that Starnell (also Starnel or Stare) is simply another term for the bird, Starling....

(quote) OED


("stA;lIN) Forms: 1 stærlinc, 4–5 sterling(e, -yng(e, 5–6 starlinge, 5–6, 7–8 Sc. stirling, 6 starlyng, Sc. stirlene, styrlyng, 7 sterling, 4– starling. Also dial. starnel. [OE. stærlinc, f. stær stare n.1:
see -ling1.]

1. Any bird of the passerine genus Sturnus, esp. S. vulgaris. Now also applied in wider sense to any bird of the family Sturnidæ.

.... So there we had it. Nothing sinister. No strange or mysterious motivations. Just a surname that 
revolved around the humble feathered friend.
John Starling married Mary Hawkins on 18 April 1742 in St. Mary's, Huntingdon. The parish notes record that he was from All Saints parish, she was from St Mary's parish. John and Mary had at least three children, William Starling, born about 1746, John Starnel and James Starnil - William was baptised at St Mary and St Benedicts in Huntingdon.

By 1770, William Starling is in Hilton as it was here that he married Jane Reynolds on 2nd November. So far, I have found four children born to the couple: Elizabeth Starnell, abt 1773, Rebecca Sterling, abt 1776, John Starling, abt 1777 and Peter Starnel, abt 1778.

In 1773, William's brother, James, married a Mary Hart from Hilton in St Mary Magdalene's, although this time, for variations sake, I have seen the surname transcribed as Sharnell.

William Starling died in January, 1818 and is buried in the churchyard, his wife Jane died sometime after 1778 although she doesn't appear in the burial records for St Mary Magdalene's with any variation of the Starling surname.

John Starling born 1777 in Hilton, married Charlotte Hart on 18th September 1804 and had the following children, James, John, William, Peter, Walter, Richard, Charles and possibly a Matthew between the years of 1805 - 1821.

The 1841 census afforded me a quick glimpse of John and Charlotte living in on The Green, near Church End. John is shown as a Labourer. Staying with the couple on that census night are their son, Peter, and two grandchildren from James and Sarah's marriage, John and Richard Starling.

John Starling died in March of 1842, and Charlotte lived for another 7 years before dying in October of 1849.