As my husband and I prepared for the birth of our first child, not knowing if it would be a boy or girl, we found ourselves sorting through name books trying to find the perfect one to fit our child. It wasn’t an easy tsk, but we eventually narrowed the names down to three choices for a girl and three for a boy. Since Chris (my husband) and I both enjoyed tracing our family tree, we wanted to make sure that the names connected with our family. In fact, as we worked on our trees, we discovered the name Samuel kept appearing in both our families. Because of that, Samuel was not only one of the boy names we had on our list, it was our favorite.
The one thing we knew for certain was that we wanted our child to have a “normal” name. We didn’t want the name to have an unusual spelling or stand out like a celebrity child name. No Apples or Norths for us.
Of course, something Chris and I know well is that names like Apple, North, Rocket, and other outrageous or trendy names, are nothing new. Changing the spelling on a name to make it special is not a new trend. In fact, as far as I can tell, people have created unique spellings for hundreds of years. It could be that people in the past didn’t know how to spell the name and spelled the name phonetically. Or it could have been intentional. We’ll never know. My research over the years have shown me that using original names and spellings is nothing new.
In case you might be looking for a unique name for your child, might I suggest some of the names from my tree (or trees I’ve researched). None of the names on this list are recent names. All are at least 100 years, most even older than that.
During the 19th Century and early 20th Century, it seemed many parents loved to name their children after presidents and then would add their last name to the end. In my tree, I’ve found an inordinate number of children named Woodrow Wilson, Ulysses S. Grant, James K. Polk, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Garfield, and Grover Cleveland. Quite a few also admired Benjamin Franklin to name their child after him as well. Also, there were several boys with the name Lincoln.
Another trend I’ve witnessed is the use of state names as names for children. I’ve seen a few Montanas (usually girls), one Texas (boy), Tennessee both as a first name (boy and girl) and middle name, and Missouri (girls’ name). In fact, my 3rd great-grandmother was Missouri Scott (1821-1890) who was born in, you guessed it, Missouri.
Of course, you also have unique spellings for “normal” names like Guley (Julie), Roda (Rhoda), Alace (Alice), Lysbeth (Elizabeth), and Cyrena (Serena), to name a few.
During the 17th Century and continuing through the 18th and 19th Centuries (although less so), you found names based on character traits: Temperance, Unity, Charity, Patience, Experience, Deliverance, Thankful, Comfort, Silence, Truthie, and Submit. All of those names were female names. Men weren’t left out though. For them, they had names like Pleasant, Royal, and Reason. I even have one distant cousin named Noble Exedous. Can you imagine trying to live up to those names?
Another trend was to name your child after your wife’s maiden name or another family member. I’m sure this is why I found names like Swagerty, Ewing, Gladstone, Stockley, and Matterson (among others).
Right now the current trend is naming a child after cities, like London and Paris. That doesn’t beat the patriotic trend of naming your daughter America.
Then there are names that defy explanation.
Direxa (who married Obil)
Sophronia (my great-great-grandmother)
Euphemia & Euphonia (sisters)
Wealthy Clapp (yes, that is her first and middle name)
Spargence & Spurgeon (brothers)
I don’t remember seeing most of those names in the name book. I imagine if I had, I would have skipped by them all. I do know that I won’t make fun of celebrity names as much. After all, my ancestors didn’t do a good job naming their own children.. Then again, I can laugh at the name Pilot Inspektor. It’s almost as awful as Starling Forest.
When our daughter was born, we debated on the three girls’ names and, in the end, we named our daughter after my maternal grandmother. The name Samuel would wait until we had our third daughter, when we named her Samantha.
What is the oddest name you’ve run across in your family tree?