Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today's Colonial Gift From Whiskers

The trend of History is often reflected in the very names borne by the men and women who played a part in it", according to Donald Lines Jacobus, often considered the father of American genealogy. The history of given (first) names in early America offers a glimpse at our forebears and their customs, as well as clues to their origins. 

New England's first settlers bore names of three different types: those of English origin, those of Hebrew derivation, and those intended to have a moral significance. Old English names, connected with the Church of England, were not often favored by the Puritans. Puritans named their children somewhat differently than other English-speaking settlers, preferring Biblical names. Evidently, some parents shut their eyes, opened the Bible, and pointed to a word at random--what else could account for a child being named Notwithstanding or Maybe? 

The early Massachusetts Brewster family had two sons, Love and Wrestling, and two daughters named Patience and Fear. The names Humility, Desire, Hate-evil, and Faint-not also appeared in the region. Other New England onomastic Practices included obscure references and names that commemorated an occasion--such as Oceanus Hopkins, who was born on the Mayflower in 1620.
Early settlers seemed to favor names for their associated moral qualities. Among girls' names, which were no doubt intended to incite their bearers to lead godly lives, were: Content, Lowly, Mindwell, Obedience, Patience, Silence, Charity, Mercy, Comfort, Delight and Thankful. 

In many families, the first names of the father and mother were given to the first-born son and daughter, respectively. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 53 percent of all females were named Mary, Elizabeth, or Sarah. Other popular girls' names were Rebecca, Ruth, Anne, Hannah, Deborah, Huldah, Abigail, and Rachel. Meanwhile, prevalent boys' names included John, Joseph, Samuel, Josiah, Benjamin, Jonathan, and Nathan. 

In Virginia, Biblical references were less common. Early settlers often named sons for Teutonic warriors, Frankish knights, and English kings. Favorites included William, Robert, Richard, Edward, George, and Charles. Daughters received name of Christian saints and traditional English folk names, such as Margaret, Jane, Catherine, Frances, and Alice, along with English favorites Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, and Sarah. First-born children were named for their grandparents, and second-born for their parents. A popular custom in both Virginia and New England was the use of surnames as given names. This occurred mostly with boys, but it was not unknown for girls. Some names were also chosen for their magical properties, and astrologers were consulted in attempt to find a "fortunate" or "lucky" name. 

Among Quakers in Colonial Pennsylvania and Delaware, babies went through a ritual called nomination. An infant's name was carefully selected by the parents, certified by friends, witnessed by neighbors, and then entered in the register of the meeting. 

First-born children were named after grandparents, honoring maternal and paternal lines evenly, often with an eldest son named after his mother's father and an eldest daughter after her father's mother. 

While this practice was not universal among Quaker families, it was common in the Delaware Valley. Many names came from the Bible, with favorites for boys being John, Joseph, Samuel, Thomas, William, and George; and for girls, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Anne/Anna/Hannah, and Esther/Hester. Also popular among the Quakers was Phebe, which rarely appeared in New England or the South. They also favored the names Patience, Grace, Mercy, and Chastity. One family's eight children were named Remember, John, Restore, Freedom, Increase, Jacob, Preserve, and Israel. 

Naming patterns differed in the "back country" of early America, which was heavily populated by Scots-Irish as well as German, Scandinavian, Irish, Scottish, French, and Dutch families. In these rural areas, many given names were "americanized," making it difficult for genealogists to identify a family's ethnic origins. 

As a general rule for these people, the patterns included a mixture of biblical, teutonic, and saints' names. Among the most popular given names for boys were: John, Robert, Richard, Andrew, Patrick, and David. Celtic names such as Ewan (and variants Ewen and Owen), Barry, and Roy were often used, as were Archibald, Ronald, Alexander, Charles, James, Wallace, Bruce, Percy, Ross, and Clyde. Again, eldest sons were often named after their grandfathers, and second or third sons after their fathers-- similar to patterns found in early tidewater Chesapeake families. 

One peculiar naming pattern found among the back-country settlers was the one bestowing unusual--sometimes made-up--given names. From an early date, these rugged pioneers cultivated a spirit of onomastic individualism, a spirit still found today in this country as parents search for a special, perhaps unique, name for their baby. Others prefer to select a name from their family tree that has been passed along for generations.

Old Naming Patterns of Ireland

1st son was named after the father's father
2nd son was named after the mother's father
3rd son was named after the father
4th son was named after the father's eldest brother
5th son was named after the mother's eldest brother
1st daughter was named after the mother's mother
2nd daughter was named after the father's mother
3rd daughter was named after the mother
4th daughter was named after the mother's eldest sister
5th daughter was named after the father's eldest sister
If the father remarries after his first wife dies, the first daughter born to this new marriage is often named after the deceased wife, and includes her whole name.
If a child dies young then their name is then used for the next child of the same sex, thereby keeping alive the name of the relative who they are ‘named for’
or "Christian name," is the first name of an individual listed before their surname.  "Middle names", do not seem to have been used in either Ireland or Scotland until some time after the 16th century.  In both Ireland and Scotland, men used male given names, and women used female given names. There was only a small group of given names that could be used for both men and women. The typical Irish byname is a patronymic, which would indicate who your father is.

Irish and Scotch Gaelic prefix meaning "son of."  Also m' and "mic," giving rise to the racial slur for Irish men as "micks," "mics," or "micky's."  Scottish and Irish patronymic surnames frequently have the prefix Mac or Mc. When these surnames were originally developed, they were formed by adding the Gaelic word mac, which means son of, to the name of the original bearer's father. For example, the surname MacDonnell literally means son of Donnell.
In later times, these prefixes were also added to the occupation or nickname of the bearer's father. For example, MacWard means son of the bard and MacDowell means son of the black stranger.  Numerous variations of this prefix emerged, for a number of reasons.  It was rendered Mag before vowels and aspirated consonants. Historical records concerning Irish and Scottish names reveal that the common prefix Mc and the less common prefixes M' and Mcc developed as abbreviations of the original Gaelic prefix Mac. 

Historical records concerning Irish and Scottish names reveal that the common prefix Mc and the less common prefixes M' and Mcc developed as abbreviations of the original Gaelic prefix Mac.  Thus, the popular beliefs that Mc is a distinctively Irish prefix while Mac is exclusively Scottish, and that one prefix is used by Catholic families while the other one is specifically Protestant are erroneous. 

In actuality, the same person often had his surname recorded using both Mac and Mc on separate occasions.

(also nee and nighean or inghean or even inghean uí) In the Irish patronymic naming system, indicates that the individual is the daughter of the man whose surname follows.
The form is:inghean uí ,
which means:  daughter of a male descendant of .
For example: Cairistiona inghean uí MacGhilleFhiondaig' which means: Cairistiona daughter of a male descendant of MacGhilleFhiondaig  (or, fully Anglicized, Christine daughter of a male descendant of McClintock). Later the word inghean was corrupted to nighean, which was further shortened to ni. 
Irish and Scotch Gaelic prefix to a patronymic name literally meaning "of the generations of," or the more commonly understood term "grandson."
Ua, Uí
Family, clan. E.g. Uí Néill

The last, or "family name" of the individual. All Gaelic surnames are patronymic," it is the father, and not the mother, whose given name was used to form this type of byname.  Gaelic bynames formed from the mother's name (metronymics) are vanishingly rare to nonexistent in both Scotland and Ireland.  In Ireland, clan affiliations were often used to form bynames. Simple patronymic bynames and clan affiliation bynames are the two most common types of Gaelic byname found in medieval and early modern Ireland.
Men: The standard form of Irish clan affiliation bynames for men is:
ó , the ó being a contraction/corruption of uá, which gives us the meaning: male descendant of
For example: Seamus ó Dae, which means Seamus male descendant of Dae (or, fully James, Dae male descendant of Day).
WomenWomen patronymics are formed the same way, so the standard way to form Irish clan affiliation bynames for women is:
inghean uí ,which means:  daughter of a male descendant of
For example: Caristiona inghean uí Dae' which means: Cairistionia daughter of a male descendant of Dae (or, fully Anglicized, Christine daughter of a male descendant of Day).  Later the word inghean was corrupted to nighean, which was further shortened to ni.

Note that in names such as Cochobhar,  the nominative form of the change from Conchobhar is Conchobar. The h in Chochobhar is the result of a feature of Gaelic called "aspiration," their way of recognizing the living or inherent "spiritual" aspect of names.  Most consonants are aspirated after ingen nighean and ni, but in the period when ingen was used, this aspiration usually wasn't reflected in the spelling.  Also note that the parental name is often modified even further.  For example, if you are Cormacc son of Aed, the Irish would be Cormacc mac Aeda.  This is because Gaelic has a distinct genitive or possessive case that looks (and often sounds) different from the nominative case. For instance, Aeda means "of Aed" or "Aed's."
A subgroup of patronymic style names is formed from the father's occupation, status or nickname instead of his given name.
Ó Gobhann means "(male) descendant of (the) smith.
Mac an Bhaird means "son of the bard."
Mac an Ghoill means "son of the foreigner."
Mac an tSionnaigh means "son of the fox."
(These are modern spellings; in Middle Irish these might have been Ua Goband, Mac in Baird, Mac in Gaill and Mac int Shinnaig.)
There are other forms of Irish bynames, including epithets, occupational name and locatives. An epithet is a descriptive phrase added after the given name. These tended to be extremely simple and concrete. A colour might be added to describe a person's hair or complexion.

  • Maine with the red hair might be called Maine Ruad.
  • Little Lugaid might be called Lugaid Beag.
  • Cathan, who is clever like a fox, might be called Cathan Sinnach.
  • Locative names state that someone is from a particular place.
  • In Mulind, in modern Irish an Mhuilinn means "of the mill" and indicates that the person lived at or near a mill.
  • Muimnech, now spelled Muimhneach is a byname meaning "Munsterman, the man from Munster."
Choosing an Irish Name, Kristine Elliot 1997
Colonial Naming Patterns, Colin Thomas, 2002
LDS Church Records, et al. 
Naming Patterns of Virginia
Anglican Church Records

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