Richie, thanks for the "Lord Lovel" reference. And with regard to counting generations, how is that determined? People lived a lot longer than 25 years. If a song was collected in 1915, and no we don't usually get a person's age with this, but assuming that the singer was 70 years old and thus born in 1840, which is not unreasonable, and that this person learned a song as a youngster, say at age 10, or about 1850, from a parent who was probably at least 30 by then, that parent would have been perhaps born in 1810. If that mother learned it from her mother when she was young, say 20 years earlier, that would put the ballad back into the 1700's, around 1790. Now we might assume that the grandmother of the original singer had learned it sometime before 1790, and perhaps as far back as 1760..... And if the 1915 singer had actually learned this song from his grandmother,...this would have been impossible! She would have been long dead before her grandson was born! It is interesting to speculate on the different possibilities.
My grandfather was born in 1876 and would have been about 39 years old in 1915. But his father was born about 1819. His father's father was born in 1790. This last person died in 1881. My grandfather would have been about five years old when his grandfather died. There are enough significant overlaps in these generations to be able to assume that my grandfather could have learned a ballad that came from his grandfather. His grandfather's father was born in 1738/39 and died in 1830. Four generations would definitely put this back into the earlier part of the 1700's. And I could have easily learned the ballad from my grandfather, if only they had sung ballads, which they didn't!