Ernest is one of those sober, so-far-out-they're-beginning-to-be-reconsidered Great Uncle names. It was a Top 40 name from 1880 to 1926, and has never been completely off the Social Security list.
Ernest is probably the only name a whole play was based on--Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"--in which one character says "There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor woman whose husband is not called Ernest." The most famous bearer of the name is Ernest Hemingway--unless you want to count Bert's friend Ernie.
Changing the spelling to Earnest makes it a male virtue name.