New parents spend a great deal of time thinking of unique names for their children. Sometimes they are meant to honor a relative or just names that the parents like. A lot of modern Hollywood couples have used names like Apple which don’t make a great deal of sense to me. I suppose that it isn’t really important for it to make sense to me…but it got me to thinking of some of the unique names I have come across in my genealogy research.
There are several names that pop out at me…my modern sensibility has a hard time with the name of Desire for a girl during the era of the Puritans…but it was a common name. I’m not real fond of Hester but certainly do recognize it as an old fashioned name. My ancestors Thomas Miner and Grace Palmer had sons named Manasseh, Judah, Clement and Ephraim alongside the more common names of John, Thomas, Joseph, and Samuel. Grace Palmer also had half-brothers named Elihu, Moses, Nehemiah and Gershom. Elizabeth Miner and her husband had sons named Ichabod and Jedidiah and daughters named Hepsibeth and my ancestor, Mahitabel. Mahitabel’s grandson, Jesse had a son named Ziba. I even find an Ebenezer Eastman. Perhaps one of the oddest names that I have found is Wayte-a-While Makepeace. She was the daughter of Thomas Makepeace and Elizabeth Hawkredd and was mysteriously born a few months after her parent’s marriage. She married herself in 1661 to a Josiah Cooper, but even he couldn’t make her first name common. Then there is poor Salmon Treat born in 1672 and married to Dorothy Noyes…his name sounds too much like food…but I know that Salmon was a popular name in an earlier age.
I recognize that most of these names have some sort of biblical derivation, but they do sound a bit odd. Then there are the nicknames…I have to wonder why a girl named Margaret has a nickname of Peggy or a Mary can also be known as Polly. Where did those nicknames come from? According to www.straightdope.com Meg and Mog were nicknames for Margaret and they were changed into Peg and Pog because of rhymes and were probably from the Scottish. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either way – but I’ve always recognized that Peggy was more than likely a Margaret from experience.
My ancestors have their share of unusual names…Potter Gage is a bit strange as is Buena Vista Baily or my grandmother’s named of Capitola. If my great grandfather had had his way, my mother would have been saddled with Bettina. Her mother, Capitola, having lived with an unusual name all of her life, decided that with the last name of Tannahill…she should have a more common first name – hence the name of Betty. I guess she never thought Mom would marry a Johnson and therefore have one of the more common name combinations out there. When I was growing up, there was a Betty Johnson who lived just a block away with the same house address but different street name…there were a lot of mix-ups in the mail. Perhaps that is why some of these unusual names are making a comeback.