Friday, July 4, 2008

Sibling Names

I've been having fun with these Puritan names, but the truth is that most seventeenth-century Bostonians had relentlessly boring names. For every Hopestill or Freelove, there are a hundred Johns and Marys.

Then as now, some families favored unusual names while most stuck to the basics.

Some, like Richard and Grace Gridley, gave their children unusual grace names:
Beleeve (b. 1640)
Tremble (b. 1642)
Return (m. John Davis 1656)

Edward Bendall and his two wives, Anne and Marah, followed a similar pattern:
Free Grace (b. 1636)
Reforme (b. 1638)
Hopefor (b. 1641)
Restore (b. 1649)

Others, like Philemon and Susan Pormort, plumbed the Bible's unexplored depths:
Pedajah (b. 1640)
Borshua (b. 1647)

These patterns throw a wrench into using Puritan names as proxies for religious beliefs. To some extent, the presence of Old Testament names indicates that Puritan New Englanders may have imagined themselves as a new Israel. On the other hand, these names can be partially attributed to individual eccentricity. It's even possible that these quirky naming patterns could be used as evidence for individualism in what is generally thought to be a corporate society.

1 comment:

pam said...

Great names. I thought I was the only one who roamed around New England cemeteries looking for the thrill of finding a truly weird name...