|Mathew Richardson, 1723, Woburn, MA|
Son of Mr Thomas
& Mrs Rebeckah
1 Year 10 Mo & 1
Day Decd Febry
Matthew is one of those names that sounds so familiar and classic to modern ears that it often comes as a surprise to me that it was not really all that common in 18th-century Massachusetts. It was not among the top 25 names given to Boston-born baby boys in 1710, which means that fewer than 5 boys (out of 885) received this name. Maybe it sounded too Catholic-y?
In general, New Testament names were not as popular as Old Testament names among colonial New Englanders, with the exception of a few that were very common names in England (like John and Joseph). Names like Paul, Mark, Luke, etc. were fairly rare, but there were tons of Ebenezers, Josiahs, and Ephraims. The names of archangels — Gabriel, Michael, Raphael — were also rare, especially in the 17th century. In Albion's Seed, David Hackett Fischer argues that these names (along with Emmanuel) may have been regarded as immodest.