Colonial Names: Great Names from American History

Colonial Names: Great Names from American History

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, and of course, American names. 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.

At one point, my parents rented a car and we drove to Salem, Massachusetts, getting lost en route only about a dozen or so times while the best of Barry Manilow blasted from the speakers with Copa Cabana goodness. (The Griswalds, of National Lampoon Vacation fame, have nothing on the Barnetts.) Marv and I eagerly toured the Salem Witch Museum, learning about the unfortunate fate of the men and women who were accused of practicing witchcraft in 1692, and we then headed to Plymouth, Massachusetts, towards the more upbeat destination of Plymouth Rock, to see where the Mayflower landed. (I searched for Pilgrims, but I apparently missed them by a few hundred years.)

Back in the Boston area, Marvin and I later visited the beautiful homes of Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts, as well as Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond. And while I don’t know how Marvin felt about it, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the resting place of many historic figures, was a huge hit with me, because I loved reading the names on the gravestones.

And what amazing names they were. A classic and vintage name nerd, even at the age of six, I was in graveyard heaven seeing so many Annes, Elizabeths, Lydias, Henrys, Josephs, and Williams. In fact, I was so inspired by the classic names, that for a day or two, I renamed poor Marvin “Margaret,” eventually restoring his given name and gender in time to spare him any permanent psychological damage. Our pilgrimage to Boston was one to remember, and one that introduced me to some wonderful names from the 1700s and namesakes, fit for stylish stuffed monkeys and human babies alike.

Colonial Names for Girls

ABIGAIL MAY ALCOTT (Mother of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women)

ANNE Bradstreet (poet)

CLARA Barton (birth name Clarissa Harlowe Barton, nurse and founder of The Red Cross)

ANNA ALCOTT Pratt (Louisa’s older sister, known as “Meg” in Little Women)

ELIZABETH Sewell ALCOTT (Louisa’s yonger sister, known as “Beth” in Little Women)

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT (Author of Little Women)

MARY Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist, founder of The Church of Christ, Scientist)

LIDIAN EMERSON(born Lydia, wife of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

MAY ALCOTT Nieriker (Louisa’s youngest sister, known as “Amy” in Little Women)

LUCY Stone (abolitionist and suffragist)

ROSE Standish (wife of Myles Standish)

MERCY OTIS Warren (writer and playwright)

Colonial Names for Boys

JOHN Adams (Founding Father of the United States and second U.S. president)

JOHN QUINCY Adams (sixth president of the United States)

SAMUEL Adams (a Founding Father of the United States)

AMOS BRONSON ALCOTT (Transcendentalist and Father of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women)

WARD NICHOLAS Boylston (merchant and namesake of Boylston Street)

CHARLES Bulfinch (architect)

EPHRAIM Wales Bull (created the Concord grape)

RALPH Waldo EMERSON (essayist, philosopher, and poet)

PETER Faneuil (merchant, and namesake of Faneuil Hall)

EDWARD EVERETT (politician)

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (Founding Father of the United States)

DANIEL CHESTER French (sculptor)

WILLIAM Lloyd GARRISON (abolitionist)

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE (author of short stories and novels, including The Scarlet Letter)

OLIVER Wendell Holmes (poet)


ELIAS Howe (inventor)

HENRY CABOT Lodge (politician known as Cabot)

HENRY Wadsworth Longfellow (poet)


JAMES OTIS (lawyer)

THEODORE PARKER (theologian and abolitionist)

EDGAR Allan Poe (writer and poet)


PAUL Revere (patriot)

MYLES Standish (military advisor of Plymouth Colony)

HENRY DAVID Thoreau (author and poet)

ELI Whitney (inventor)

JOHN Winthrop (governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony)

Girl Names from the 1700s













Boy Names from the 1700s























About the Author

Jill Barnett

Jill Barnett

Jill Barnett, a lifelong name fan, enjoys working with children, painting, drawing, writing, running, cooking, traveling, and following popular culture and politics. Her favorite color is yellow, her all-time favorite movie is The Sound of Music, and she has recently decided that peanut M&Ms are far more substantial than Milk Duds. Jill has enjoyed writing for Nameberry about yooneek names, stage names, and being less than pleased with her given name, and she looks forward to posting on Nameberry with so many wonderful people each day.