Alaska Baby Names: Names From America’s Last Frontier

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by Angela Mastrodonato at Upswing Baby Names

By keeping my eyes and ears open, I have found name inspiration from many sources. One of these sources has been the Kilcher family, a prominent homesteading family from Alaska.

In recent years, this family has been featured in the Discovery Channel reality show, Alaska: The Last Frontier. This family’s notoriety doesn’t begin with a reality TV show, however. This family happens to be the family of folk/pop/country singer, Jewel.

But the family’s notoriety goes back even further than the ‘90s musician, at least in Alaska. Jewel’s grandfather, Yule Kilcher, set up a subsistence farm in Alaska when he fled Switzerland to escape the Natzis in 1936. He went on to become an Alaskan State Constitutional Delegate and an Alaskan State Senator.

Since Yule’s immigration, many family members have continued the homesteading lifestyle he began in Alaska. This family has been living off the land, in a cabin without any plumbing, for four generations.

Not surprisingly, this impressive family is full of individual enterprising people with individual enterprising names. Most of the names are a combination of Scandinavian/Nordic names from Yule’s generations to more nature-hippy inspired names from Jewel’s generation.

Atz – is the oldest of Yule’s eight children, is Jewel’s father, and is portrayed as the family’s patriarch on the TV show. Atz also happens to be a musician and he and his daughter have performed together. Atz is his nickname. His given name is the Hungarian name, Attila.

Atz Lee – is one of Atz’s sons and Jewel’s brother. When he was younger, he left the family homestead and roamed the country in pursuit of a music career like his sister. Eventually he decided that homesteading was his life’s passion and returned to the family homestead in Alaska.

Eivin – is pronounced similar to Ivan. Eivin is son to Otto, Atz’s brother. This makes him Jewel’s cousin. He lives on the family homestead with his wife and baby son in a cabin he built himself. The Nordic name is a form of Eivind, Eivindr, Eyvindr.

Erna – One of Yule’s sisters. Erna is a Nordic name and a form of Ernesta and Ernestina. It is also an alternative spelling for Arna.

Etienne – is absolutely lovely. He is the son of Atz Lee and his wife Jane. While this name (pronounced ay-TYEN) has a lovely rhythm and sounds nothing like contemporary or traditional U.S. boy names, it has familiar roots. You see, Etienne is nothing more than the French form of mid-century favorite Steven.

Farenorth – Is the middle name of baby Findlay, the newest Kilcher, the son of Eivin and his wife Eve. It is also the middle name Yule gave himself upon his arrival in America. The meaning is literal. Upon arriving in Alaska, Yule Kilcher was determined to “fare north”.

Findlay – The newest member of the Kilcher clan, He was named after a family friend.

Jewel – Her name seemed unique when she first entered the public eye 20 years ago. If not for the famous namesake, the name may have drifted into obscurity, but Jewel did launch her name back onto the popularity charts. However, her name failed to reach the same mega-hit status as her songs.

Mairiis – is a daughter of Yule Kilcher. The name seems very similar to the Scottish name Mairi, but the relationship could be a coincidence, based on appearance.

Nikos – is another one of Atz’s sons and Jewel’s brothers. He still lives on the family homestead in Alaska. Nikos is a form of Nikolaos, the Greek form of Nicholas. With a similar form of Nicholas, Nico, gradually gaining popularity, Nikos has modern potential.

Otto – is Yule’s 6th child who raises a herd of cattle on the homestead. The Scandinavian name has trend- potential. After being absent from the U.S. top 1000 for over 35 years, Otto returned to those ranks in 2011 and has been steadily climbing.

Q’orianka – is Yule’s great-granddaughter, the daughter of Saskia Kilcher, cousin to Jewel, Atz Lee, and Eivin, and an actress most known for her role as Pocahontas in the 2005 film, The New World. Her name could be a modern invention. She reportedly said her name means “golden eagle” from the Quechua words for “gold,” quri, and “eagle,” anca.

Saskia – is a granddaughter of Yule, the daughter of Wurtila “Wurzy” Kilcher and mountaineer Ray Genet. This name seems blatantly underappreciated. The name enjoyed some moderate success in the UK where it is still at the bottom of the top 500, but has gradually declined in recent years.

Stellavera (Stella+Vera) – is another one of Yule’s daughters and Atz and Otto’s sister. Combo names are once again fashion-forward and Stella has reached the top 100 (most recently at 70). Vera is less popular at 422 but is steadily climbing. With both names being stylish, why not combine them and double the style? The resulting Stellavera has a rhythm similar to mega-hit Isabella.

Sunrise – is perhaps a bit off-the-beaten path, but there’s just something sweet and alluring about this name. This is another one of Yule’s daughters. Sunrise is actually her nickname; her given name is Sjoberg.

Wurtila – was sometimes known as Wurzy. She was one of Yule Kilcher’s daughters. She wrote poetry and could have inspired Jewel’s interest in the subject.

Yule – is the one who began the homestead lifestyle, and lived that way until his death in 1998. Yule makes a great Winter inspired name often associated with Christmas and the winter solstice.

Notably, several people who married into the Kilcher clan have wonderfully stylish–but more mainstream–names, such as Charlotte (wife to Otto), Eve, Jane, and Ruth (Wife to Yule).

While these Kilcher wives have great names, I chose to focus on the counterculture names that reflect the family’s counterculture lifestyle.

Which Kilcher name is your favorite?

This post was expanded and revised from a post that originally ran on Upswing Baby Names. 

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022, which she updates every year in May once the newest U.S. name rankings become available.  

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upswingbabynames

Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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2 Responses to “Alaska Baby Names: Names From America’s Last Frontier”

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niteowl13 Says:

February 9th, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Oh my! I have a feeling Stellavera will catch on. I love it.
What an interesting story.

ashbee Says:

October 5th, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I don’t normally like “made up” names and only like a few nature names, but I find Farenorth intriguing. I also like Otto, Saskia, and Sjoberg.

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