What’s in a Name?

Genealogists are name collectors – not necessarily in terms of volume, but let’s face it. When you find a new ancestor, that person has a name along with two parents who also have names. So, we are definitely name collectors.

As you have discovered new ancestors, have any of their names resonated with you for whatever reason? With 7000+ names in Dave’s tree and the same in my tree, I’ve come across many names. Some have made immediate impressions in my mind, but for very different reasons.

1. The first name that stuck with me was the surname “Tarbox.” It was my grandfather’s middle name and the maiden name of his grandmother, Nellie Tarbox Adams. It is also a unique name in that, as far as I can determine, all Tarboxes in the U.S. today descend from John Tarbox of Lynn, Massachusetts in the mid 1600’s.

2. Tarbox research led me to my favorite name given to any of my ancestors. Samuel Tarbox’s second wife was Experience Looke, so she became Experience Looke Tarbox. There’s just something I love about the Puritan given names anyway, but Looke is a fairly rare surname like Tarbox. Besides liking the sound of her name, how many Experience Looke Tarboxes are going to be running around in the records? Answer: Just her!

3. At the other end of the name spectrum, my first thought upon discovering my 3x great grandfather, Johannes (no middle name) Jensen (equivalent of John Johnson) born somewhere in Copenhagen, Denmark, where birth/baptismal records are housed in local parishes. My first reaction was how in the world was I going to find someone with such a common name? It turns out that my problem was just the opposite. There were almost no children born with Johannes (no middle name) Jensen. Practically everyone had a middle name, but Johannes was born to an unwed mother and given up for adoption. That was the stumbling block to cracking this brick wall, not a name that I assumed was extremely common.

4. My ancestor with the longest name? That would be Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen, son of the above Johannes Jensen. I think Frits’ four given names were a direct result of Johannes having no middle name and no family to care for him. Johannes, I believe, wanted to let his only son know that he was an important being and was well loved.

5. We have all heard the story about the family name being changed at Ellis Island. My great grandfather, Stefan Kucharik changed the family name after emigrating from what is today Slovakia to Passaic, New Jersey. “Kucharik” means “Cook” in Slovak. So, did the family name become Cook? Nope, he changed it to the (very common) Hungarian surname “Sabo,” which means “Taylor.” Why? My grandmother had no idea. Learning that my last name wasn’t really my last name when I was 28 was a surprise!

6. Another of my colonial New England names  which I like is Seaborn Burt. Seaborn’s birth record is nowhere to be found as he was born – at sea! His parents, Benjamin and Sarah (Belden) Burt who were taken captives in the 1694 Deerfield, MA massacre. Seaborn was born somewhere between Quebec and Boston during the summer of 1706 as they were headed back home from a very long captivity.

7. Last, but not least, is Samuel Scripture. Like Tarbox, the Scripture surname is rare in early New England. I was thrilled to find such a unique name in the earlier days of my researching. Samuel left many descendants, including two of my Revolutionary War patriots, Samuel Scripture and his son, James Scripture. I originally thought that his ancestor perhaps was a church minister. However, the name has also been found as “Scripter,” which could indicate someone who knew how to write. His English origins have not been proven.

What are some ancestral names of yours that caught your attention?


One thought on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. I love this post. I had thought recently about some of the odd names I have run across in my research. You have inspired me to follow up.

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