Awesome Puritan names
A while ago, for fun, I started doing some reading on some of the stranger naming choices made by the Puritans between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. (Yes, for fun. I am a dork.) Here are a few of my favourites:
A Sussex jury roll from the 1600s includes the names Accepted Trevor, Redeemed Compton, Kill-Sin Pimple, Fly-Fornication Richardson, Search-The-Scriptures Moreton, The-Peace-Of-God Knight, Stand-Fast-On-High Stringer, The-Gift-of-God Stringer, and Fight-The-Good-Fight-Of-Faith White, Obediencia Cruttenden, Called Lower, Hope-For Bending, More-Fruit Flower and Meek Brewer. Some other wonderful Sussex names around this time include Safely-on-High Snat, Mortifie Hicks and the marvellously-named Humiliation Scratcher. And let’s not forget Be-Stedfast Elyarde, Faint-not Dighurst, Hew-Agag-in-pieces Robinson, Swear-not-at-all Ireton and Obadiah-bind-their-kings-in-chains-and-their-nobles-in-irons Needham.
Here’s another good naming method: There was a tradition among some Puritan villagers of opening the Bible and selecting the first name their eyes landed upon, which led to some interesting christenings. One poor child was landed with the name Ramoth-Gilead as a result of this method, reportedly leading a rather bemused parson to ask, “Boy or girl, eh?” There’s some evidence that certain parents, whose reading was perhaps not the best, would simply open the Bible and choose a word at random - hence the existence in Connecticut of Maybe Barnes and a girl by the rather unfortunate name of Notwithstanding Griswold. One child in England was christened Sirs, the parents insisting that it was a Scripture name and citing as proof the passage “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Another Puritan named his dog Moreover after the Gospel passage “Moreover the dog came and licked his sores.”
Yet another story tells of a priest who was befuddled when a woman informed him that her child was to be name “Axe-her”. “What name?” he spluttered. “Axe-her,” repeated another woman. After much discussion he discovered that the women were referred to Achsah, the daughter of Caleb. This may also explain the existence of an Axar Starrs in Stockport - the daughter, appropriately, of one Caleb Starrs. The name Axar remained popular in Devonshire for some time.
A little boy called John wound up with an unfortunate bonus name due to his godparent’s strong accent and a misunderstanding at the baptismal font. “What name?” the priest asked, to which the godparent replied, “John honly.” The priest dutifully went on to declare, “John Honly, I baptise thee…”
Thomas and Elizabeth Pegden, residents of Kent during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, named their first four sons after the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When Elizabeth gave birth to a fifth son in 1795, they decided to continue this theme by naming him after the next book of the New Testament, and thus he was christened Acts-of-the-Apostles Pegden. According to one source, his nickname was Actsy, “for the Vicar of Boughton has heard a parishioner speak of her uncle Actsy Pegden.” An older relative bore the name Pontius Pilate Pegden.
In the late 1800s, a Thurstonville man named his four sons Love-well, Do-well, Die-well and Fare-well Sykes. Around the same time, another boy, being the younger sibling of sisters Faith and Hope, was given the name And Charity.
Another fellow, rather bemusingly, named his son Judas-not-Iscariot.
Zachary Crofton, died 1672, clearly scoured the Scriptures in order to find names for his children. His five sons were called Zachary, Zareton, Zephaniah, Zelophehad and - presumably after all alliterative possibilities had been exhausted - John.
The Presbyterian clergy were fond of foisting on illegitimate children names reflective of the sins of their parents - names like Helpless, Repent, Repentance, Forsaken, Fly-fornication.
Among many other excellent Puritan names, there was also:
- Creature (a unisex name, apparently!)
All of these are trumped, however, by a Puritan girl who, when asked for her Christian name, replied, “Through-Much-Tribulation-We-Enter-The-Kingdom-Of-Heaven, but for short they call me Tribby.”