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Category: colonial baby names

Colonial Names: Great New Old Choices

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I was in Williamsburg, Virginia not too long ago, where there was a wonderful show of folk art portraits at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum. I was transfixed by the art, of course, but even more transfixed by the colonial names.

Colonial names never cease to surprise and fascinate me.  Among the many (many many) people named Mary and Elizabeth, Henry and James, there are always several names that are real doozies.

These are names that are mostly rooted in the bible or mythology, but that you just don’t hear much in the modern world.

But that doesn’t mean that many of these colonial names aren’t ripe for revival. A few of the colonial names on this list — notably Mercy, Augustine, and Susannah — are being rediscovered by today’s parents.

The others, well, are they undiscovered gems or mere curiosities? What do you think?

This collection is simply based on the (real) 18th century people pictured in the portrait show.

girls

  • Burneretta — This is not a literally unique name — a few others are findable online — but seems to be an invention.
  • Debrah — Interesting to see that Deborah had spelling variations 300 years ago.
  • Delia — An old-fashioned name with a sleek modern feeling (like Celia), Delia can also be short for Adelia or Cordelia.
  • Dorothea — Coming back along with brother Theodore.

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Guest blogger JILL BARNETT and her companion Marvin track down some fascinating colonial names during her childhood trip to Boston and environs.

When it came to looks and style, Marvin had it all. Decked out in saddle shoes, mustard yellow corduroy pants, and a maroon V-neck sweater, he had a commanding presence, and owned any room he entered. A creature of few words, Marvin was a cartoon connoisseur who also enjoyed more serious fare like Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons. An avid athlete, Marvin delighted in playing Frisbee, and never flinched, even when the plastic disc was speeding directly toward his forehead. Granted, to most, Marvin was only a three-foot-tall stuffed monkey with Velcro hands, but to me, he was my silent partner in crime and constant companion throughout my childhood. He was the Sonny to my Cher.

While Marv and I shared many adventures, from the time we earned a whole dollar selling warm lemonade to parched pedestrians, to the summer during which he accompanied me to overnight camp (because taking a giant saddle shoe-wearing stuffed monkey to camp is totally cool), our best times were definitely had together on family vacations.

When Marvin and I were in first grade, my parents took us, along with my older brother, on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, where I quickly developed a love of American History. I adored the architecture and historical sites (never mind that I thought Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables was actually “The House of Seven Gay Bulls”), and Marv and I enjoyed wearing Minutemen hats while walking on the Freedom Trail and visiting Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

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