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Family Names: Some genealogical gems

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Nameberry Leslie Owen searches through the pages of her family history and digs up some interesting–and sometimes surprisingly modern-sounding– colonial treasures.

One of the reasons I became so interested in names is because I discovered the two-volume edition of the Brewster Genealogy in my grandparents’ house in Maine.  I pored over the pages, discovering unusual family names –Ohel, for example – and names I found beautiful, such as Solace and Wrestling.  I discovered ancestors who were famous and who led incredible lives.  I discovered information that surprised my family.  The books, however, disappeared, much to my great disappointment.  But recently, I was able to download a copy of Volume One from the Boston Public Library, and I am back to using it to make lists and rediscoveries.

William and Mary Brewster had five living children, all of whom eventually came to Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Elder William Brewster was the religious leader of the colony, the only one who had to leave England (there was an arrest warrant for him, for treason), and it was his tireless work that kept the survivors alive during that first hard winter, according to Governor William Bradford’s account in Of Plimouth Plantation.  The first names of the Brewsters, who married into the most prestigious New England families, fall into several categories:  Puritan virtue names, Biblical names, classic English names, and what I call Stuart/Georgian names.

Here are twelve girls’ and twelve boys’ names that I’ve found repeatedly throughout the genealogy and that could hold some interesting possibilities for an adventurous nameberry:

Girls

Celinda – one of those Stuart names, like Belinda and Melinda and perhaps a variant of Celeste or Celine.

Damaris – the name of one of Paul’s converts, it was very popular in Puritan and colonial times.

Freedom – oddly enough, this name was only used for girls in the Brewster family.

Hopestill – along with Truelove, an interesting virtue name.  Hopestill was used repeatedly in both Jonathan and Love Brewster’s families.

Lovisa– a Germanic/Norse version of Louisa.

Mahala– meaning lute or lyre, Mahala was a daughter of Ishmael and a wife of EsauMahalia Jackson’s original name was Mahala.

Mehitable– a variation of Mehitabel, a Biblical name.

Parthenia –honoring the Parthenon, perhaps?  This was a common colonial name.  My great-grandfather Philip Hammett’s mother was Parthenia Jones Hammett.

Salumith–a version of ShulamithShulamit is a fairly common name is Israel.

Solace–a beautiful virtue name.

Wealthy—I’m not sure why this was used for daughters or why it was so common.  I first discovered this name in a small cemetery in Old Lyme where I grew up, on a Wealthy Ann Chadwick who lived during the end of the eighteenth century.

Zilpha– a version of Zilpah, the mother of Asher and GadZilpha Keatly Snyder is a well-known children’s writer.

Boys

Abijah– a very common Biblical name in Puritan and colonial times.  It’s related to the modern Hebrew name Aviya.

Asaph –as with Abijah, Assaf is common in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Comfort –this is used as a male virtue name.  Later on, it turns up as a surname; Comfort was the middle name of Louis Tiffany and the married name of Elsie Borden.

Consider—a highly unusual virtue name used frequently in the Brewster family.

Cyprian–a name that, like Caspian, sounds more modern than colonial.

Dwell—another unusual virtue name used by the descendants of Benjamin Brewster.

Galena medical name that’s more substantive than Jaylen.

Gawin, a colonial version of Gawain/Gavin, one of King Arthur’s knights.

Isaias, the Greek version of Isaiah, joining Jonas, Matthias, Lucas.

Love, the second son of William and Mary Brewster.  My mother’s family is descended from Love Brewster.

Theophilus, a New Testament name that has the same attraction as Theodore.

Wrestling, the last son of William and Mary Brewster.  My father’s family is descended from Wrestling Brewster.  The name comes from Jacob’s wrestling with the angel.

Leslie E. Owen, known to her fellow berries as miloowen, was born in Massachusetts, raised in Connecticut and attended the University of Arizona. She has worked in publishing in New York and Canada, taught creative writing and has published articles and short stories. Her first book for children, Pacific Tree Frogs, was published in Canada, the UK and Australia by Tradewind Books and in the US by Crocodile Books. Leslie currently teaches high school English in Florida and is completing a novel.

Have you ever searched your family’s genealogy and come up with some surprises?

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