Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Naming

The blogosphere is abuzz with the tale of little Adolf Hitler Campbell and his birthday cake woes.

Many commenters are appalled that a family would name their children Adolph Hitler Campbell, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell [Note: Did they mean "Himmler"?]. Of course, in these great United States, you are perfectly free to name your child anything you like, and other people are perfectly free to call you a fool for doing so. Maybe not exactly what Madison had in mind, but something similar.

It seems like a good time to link back to a few of my previous posts on Americans' long history of bestowing curious names on their children:
When the 1940 census is released in 2010, I imagine we'll find many little boys named Adolph Hitler. There aren't any in the 1930 census because Hitler was not as popular in America in the 1920s as he was in the 1930s, but I'd be surprised if there are fewer than 20 in the 1940 census.


Robert J. said...

There was a character who appeared a few times in the TV series Hill Street Blues who was called "Vic Hitler, the Narcoleptic Comedian." He seems to have a Wikipedia entry.

One of the pioneers of scholarly genealogical writing in New England was Lemuel Shattuck, a founder of the NEHGS. Let's see if I can make a link to his entry on Asia, Africa, Europe, and America Shattuck, born 1804-1810 in Brookline, N.H.:

globalized Shattucks

The footnote that goes with it is a minor literary gem:

One Stickney, Two Stickney, Three Stickney

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

That's great — I love those continent names! I wonder why they named their daughters Roxanna and Mary, though. I would have expected Athens and Constantinople.

I imagine that, being from New Hampshire, the global Shattucks are probably related to the Pepperell Shattucks.

Robert J. said...

Yes indeed, all of them descendants of William Shattuck, the immigrant ancestor who died in Watertown in 1672, aged 50. His English origin has not been identified as far as I know. Three of his sons settled in Groton and Pepperell, and the (relatively uncommon) name has been centered in Middlesex county ever since, with extensions into adjacent Worcester Country and southern New Hampshire. The Laurel Hill Cemetery in Fitchburg, visible from my back window, has got lots of Shattucks in it, all descendants of William 1.

Lemuel Shattuck's Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck (1855) is a very fine piece of scholarly genealogy, including not only all the factual details he had available, but also introductory notes on "philosophical genealogy" covering the frequencies of surnames, the average lengths of generations, and much more. In the 1830s he also wrote a fine history of Concord, which set a standard for town histories. The Google Books copy is his presentation copy to the Harvard College Library.

It would be a pretty fair bet that anyone named Shattuck in the United States is a descendant of William of Watertown. Lemuel erected a small monument to him which he describes and transcribes in the Memorials. I have a vague recollection of having seen this when I was a kid, but that may be my imagination. If you've a mind to track it down in Cambridge/Watertown I'd love to see a photo.

Speaking of 101 Ways to Die, William's "son, John Shattuck, who was drowned in Charlestown Ferry, Sept. 14, 1675, aged 28" represents a remarkable genealogical nexus for me. He died at age 28, having had four children already, and I'm a descendant of *all four* of them. (Insert gratuitous comment about inbreeding here.)