Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesGenealogy · 10 years ago

How did we come to use the names John/Jane Doe for unidentified people?

Anyone know the first time this was done?

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  • Anonymous
    10 years ago
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    In any case, you've picked a good question to become obsessed about, because the use of "John Doe" and "Jane Doe" as stand-ins for the names of unidentified persons is so widespread in everyday life that most of us never think to wonder why that should be.

    Fortunately, I happen to have on my shelf a fine book called "What's In A Name?" by the learned and prolific Paul Dickson (Merriam-Webster, 1996) which deals with just this sort of question. It turns out that the "John Doe" custom dates back to the reign of England's King Edward III, during the legal debate over something called the Acts of Ejectment. This debate involved a hypothetical landowner, referred to as "John Doe," who leased land to another man, the equally fictitious "Richard Roe," who then took the land as his own and "ejected," or evicted, poor "John Doe."

    These names -- John Doe and Richard Roe -- had no particular significance, aside from "Doe" (a female deer) and "Roe" (a small species of deer found in Europe) being commonly known nouns at the time. But the debate became a hallmark of legal theory, and the name "John Doe" in particular gained wide currency in both the legal world and general usage as a generic stand-in for any unnamed person. According to Mr. Dickson, "John Doe" and "Richard Roe" are, to this day, mandated in legal procedure as the first and second names given to unknown defendants in a case (followed, if necessary, by "John Stiles" and "Richard Miles"). The name "Jane Doe," a logical female equivalent, is used in many state jurisdictions, but if the case is federal, the unnamed defendant is dubbed "Mary Major."

    Hope this is helpful!

  • 10 years ago

    The name "John Doe", often spelled "Doo," along with "Richard Roe" or "Roo" were regularly invoked in English legal instruments to satisfy technical requirements governing standing and jurisdiction, beginning perhaps as early as the reign of England's King Edward III.[4]Other obsolete fictitious names for a litigious person in English law were John-a-Noakes, or John Noakes/Nokes and John-a-Stiles/John Stiles.[5]

    The Oxford English Dictionary states that John Doe is "the name given to the fictitious lessee of the plaintiff, in the (now obsolete in the UK) mixed action of ejectment, the fictitious defendant being called Richard Roe".This particular use became obsolete in the UK in 1852:As is well known, the device of involving real people as notional lessees and ejectors was used to enable freeholders to sue the real ejectors. These were then replaced by the fictional characters John Doe and Richard Roe. Eventually the medieval remedies were (mostly) abolished by the Real Property Limitation Act of 1833; the fictional characters of John Doe and Richard Roe by the Common Law Procedure Act 1852; and the forms of action themselves by the Judicature Acts 1873-75."

    Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Respondent) v Meier and another(FC) (Appellant) and others and another (FC)(Appellant) and another (2009).[6]

    The term 'John Doe Injunction' (or John Doe Order)[7] is used in the UK to describe an injunction sought against someone whose identity is not known at the time it is issued:"8.02 If an unknown person has possession of the confidential personal information and is threatening to disclose it, a 'John Doe' injunction may be sought against that person. This form of injunction was used for the first time since 1852 in the United Kingdom when lawyers acting for JK Rowling and her publishers obtained an interim order against an unidentified person who had offered to sell chapters of a stolen copy of an unpublished Harry Potter novel to the media".[8]Unlike in the United States the name (John) Doe does not actually appear in the formal name of the case, for example: X & Y v Persons Unknown [2007] HRLR 4.

    Source(s): Wikipedia
  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    There is no real real knowledge as to why these names were picked but the general consensus is that the best-known early example is in Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England of 1765-69. We know its older than that and there are documents tracing it back to 1659.

    Doe is not the only such placeholder name in use, Roe is another as in Wade vs. Roe. And a lot of nations use N.N. as in Nomen nescio.

  • 10 years ago

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Doe

    "The name "John Doe" is used as a placeholder name in a legal action, case or discussion for a male party, whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. The name is also used to refer to a male corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown. This practice is widely used in the United States and Canada, but is rare in other English-speaking countries (including the United Kingdom itself, from where its use in a legal context originates. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, the names JOE BLOGGS or HENRY WOTSIT (like, I assume, 'what's it') are used instead.

    John Doe is sometimes used to refer to a typical male in other contexts as well, in a similar manner as John Q. Public, Joe Public, Joe Schmoe, or John Smith. The name John Doe with a fictional address or phone number is used on some forms as an example to show people how to fill out the forms.

    The female equivalent of John is Jane Doe, and a child or baby whose identity is unknown may be referred to as Baby Doe. A notorious murder case in Kansas City, Missouri referred to the baby victim as Precious Doe. However, to avoid possible confusion, if two anonymous or unknown parties are cited in a specific case or action, the surnames Doe and Roe may be used simultaneously – for example, "John Doe v. Jane Roe". Other variations are John Stiles and Richard Miles.

    ORIGIN:

    The name "John Doe", often spelled "Doo," along with "Richard Roe" or "Roo" were regularly invoked in English legal instruments to satisfy technical requirements governing standing and jurisdiction, beginning perhaps as early as the reign of England's King Edward III, who reigned from 1 February 1327 – 21 June 1377 (50 years, & 140 days, beginning at age 14) during the Middle Ages. It's first use in England was during the legal debate over something called the 'Acts of Ejectment'. This debate involved a hypothetical landowner, referred to as "John Doe," who leased land to another man, the equally fictitious "Richard Roe," who then took the land as his own and "ejected," or evicted, poor "John Doe." The debate became a hallmark of legal theory, and the name "John Doe" in particular gained wide currency in both the legal world and general usage as a generic stand-in for any unnamed person.

    http://askville.amazon.com/names-John-Jane-Doe-uni...

    In the book called "What's In A Name?" by Paul Dickson (Merriam-Webster, 1996) , it says " 'John Doe' and 'Richard Roe' are, to this day, mandated in legal procedure as the first and second names given to unknown defendants in a case (followed, if necessary, by 'John Stiles' and 'Richard Miles'). The name 'Jane Doe,' a logical female equivalent, is used in many state jurisdictions, but if the case is federal, the unnamed defendant is dubbed 'Mary Major'."

    According to http://www.familysearch.org, however, there were ACTUAL people with these names. Some examples are:

    1. John DOE - Birth/Christening: < 1796 <Liverpool, England

    2. John DOE --b. 29 Nov 1815, Newbury, Orange, Vermont; Father: Henry DOE (1782-1867) & Mother: Jenny MC KEEN (1786-1852); Grandparents: William Nealley DOE , and maternal--David MCKEEN & Margaret MC PHERSON . SIBLINGS included Jane DOE (b. 1811, Newbury, Orange, Vermont). There were 11 children in the family.

    3. John DOE - Birth/Christening: 25 Aug 1669 in England.

    4. John DOE--b. 1872, Finchingfield, Essex, England; Grandson of ELI & SARAH DOE, residing at

    No 6 Sharpes in Finchingfield, Essex for the 1881 British Census .

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