Category: early american names
This year once more, and again with apologies to our dear Britberries, we honor some of the (more interestingly named) heroes in the struggle of the US to gain its independence from the mother country, as well as some of the more unusually named Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Here, some early patriotic baby names:
6. Turkey Names
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:
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.
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.
- 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.
For a number of years, when I wasn’t writing about names, I was writing about antiques and collectibles for a syndicated newspaper column. But of course when I was thinking about antiques, I was still also thinking about names.
Looking at the field of antique furniture, for example, I found that when it came to early British cabinetmakers, the names were relatively unexciting. George Hepplewhite. Robert Adams. Thomas Chippendale. Thomas Sheraton. Nothing too juicy there.
But with the Early American cabinetmakers and clockmakers it was quite a different story. Lots of antiquated Biblical names, more than one Chauncey, Ebenezer and Lemuel, a few virtue names rarely heard in modern times (Prudent, Noble), a couple of Latinate names and a Greek god—in other words a variegated picture of American Colonial and Federal era nomenclature:
Some prime examples:
- Abel Cottey
- Abiel Chandler
- Abner Toppan
- Ansel Goodwin
- Asa Holden
- Chauncey Boardman, Jerome
- Duncan Phyfe
- Ebenezer Knowlton, Tracy, Parmalee
- Elbert Anderson
- Eli Terry
- Elias Ingraham
- Elijah Booth, Sanderson
- Eliphaler Chapin
- Elisha DeWolfe, Jr
- Elnathan Taber
- Enos Doolittle
- Ephraim Haines, Downes
- Everadus Bogardus
- Garvan Carver
- Gawen Brown
- Gerrard Hopkins
- Gideon Roberts
- Heman Clark
- Hercules Courtenay