One of the first basic family tree makers I bought, laid out the tree line by line. So I then began to compile four separate little trees in this down the page format from the details supplied and my own knowledge. I then started going to a Family History Centre not far from where I live, to see if I could find any more details about my own family because at that stage there was no known link between the four families in this part of the world. I initially looked at parish records for Greenwich, as Marion had mentioned that they were a lot of Curnesses in that area. These parish records covered the periods 1872 - 1911, but I could find no link to my own family. I then looked at parish records for London, which for the Curness families included Holborn, Shoreditch, London and Lambeth but again none that I could link to my own family. At that time I also found the surname Curniss and at first ignored it, until I found that a James and Catherine Curness had two children christened on Christmas Day 1802, at St Andrews, Holborn and later on, a James and Catherine Curniss had a son christened on Christmas Day 1806, also at St Andrews. I thought that the chance of a James and Catherine Curness and a James and Catherine Curniss living at the same time and in the same area were highly unlikely, so I decided to encompass the two names together. The London records for the two names then covered the period 1735 - 1857.
A little later I was put on to what was then called St Catherine's House records (Named after the location that housed the records in book form, in the Aldwich, London. They have now moved to the Family History Centre in Myddleton Street. The Angel). These are the central records for births, deaths and marriages (BDM) for the whole of England and Wales from the middle of 1837 and go up to the present day. The records at my Centre at that time only went up to 1906. These records were on micro-film, with spools for each alphabetically section of each quarter of each year. As initially I was only looking for my own family I tended to jump around, looking for the birth of my grandfather John Curness. I eventually checked every roll of micro-film for the Curness / Curniss name in all three categories (births, deaths and marriages) but even then, did miss some as they were spelt differently again.
What I did discover, was that in the first seventy years of birth records there were only eighty seven people born with the Curness surname. Coupled with the fact that only fifty five of the eighty seven survived past the age of ten and that twenty five of them were female. I then felt that it was a rare name and perhaps there was a common point somewhere back in time.
There was also another pitfall that nearly caused me miss out on some of the early entries. It was common in the old days when there was a double s in the word such a bless, gross and of course Curness that the clerk writing the word would use the old English s that looks like an f for the first s and a normal s for the second so that Curness would look like Curnefs. Sometimes the top of the f was left off making it look like a y, giving the name Curneys. There were a number people with names spelt Curnefs that I missed in my initial research and so was lucky to pick it up fairly early. This way of writing the name appears on a number of the certificates I have added to the tree, mainly the early ones. If you go into an old church you find this way of writing (we found it in Westminster Abbey and in a little church in Widecombe In The Moor in Devon).
I made lists of every Curness in each of the three categories and tried to group them into families by taking the births and putting them together suburb by suburb, year by year. This guesswork in the main, was alright in most cases but did result in some of the earlier members being put in the wrong family, until I purchased certificates or received information from a close relative, enabling me to put it right.