Category Archives: Naming Patterns

One of a Kind: Ancestors with Unique Names

We all have ancestors with those fun names, like John Smith or William Williams or Mary Jones. We also have ancestors with much rarer surnames, but whose families bestow the same given names over and over so a number of persons with a particular name can be found throughout time.

This post is about a different kind of unique name. Do you have one or more ancestors whose names are so unique – a combination of first and last names or, for females, first, maiden and last names, that are so totally unique that you’ve never found another person with that exact name?

It’s really not as rare or unique as one might think. I have several in my tree.

Example #1 – Experience Look, daughter of Thomas Look of Lynn, Massachusetts, born in 1658.

There is actually one other Experience Look who I’ve come across and she was the daugher of my Experience’s older brother, Thomas Look.

However, both Experience Looks could claim to be “one of a kind” when they married. My ancestress became Experience Look Tarbox and her niece became Experience Look Coffin!

Example #2 – My grand aunt married Stephen Tidik. Tidik is a rare Slovak (Carpatho-Rusyn) surname found in a limited geographical area. As I traced back the Tidik family in the Udol church registers, the earliest person found was Ferdinand Tidik, buried on 28 February 1832, aged about 75 years, so born c1757.

Here is a surname that is rare, but his given name – Ferdinand – is definitely not Slovak and I’ve never come across any other child in those church records with the first name of Ferdinand. Where he came from and how he came to be named Ferdinand Tidik I will probably never know.

Example #3 – Both my mother-in-law and her sister had a unique combination of names. My husband’s mother was Ruby Jewel Sturgell and even with as many other Sturgells/Sturgills around, I have never come across another female named Ruby Jewel Sturgell. Her sister’s name is so unique that I’ve never ever found anyone else with it – Nadjamae Sturgell.

Today, having a given name that parents have made up isn’t all that unusual. However, for the 1920s, having a name that different definitely set you apart from the crowd.

Example #4Hampton Brasher, my husband’s #X great grandfather,  was born c1820 in Kentucky and died in hospital in Rolla, Phelps, Missouri during the Civil War in 1864.

I have no clue how his parents came up with his first name. I have never found any other person named Hampton Brasher, in spite of the fact that Hampton had six sons of his own and none got the name.

I also haven’t found any relatives on his paternal or maternal sides of the family with the name Hampton. It’s a mystery.

Last one:

Example #5 – Eramanthus Elizabeth Scott, my husband’s 2X great grandmother, is another lady with a different given name. She is found in records as Eramanthus, Eri and Elizabeth.

I can’t even find another person named Eramanthus. I have found it listed as an ingredient in facial lotion! It looks very Greek and sounds like it should be a plant, but I can’t even find it in a dictionary.

Even with the billions of records in the world and the billions of people who have lived or are still living today, it isn’t really all the difficult to find ancestors whose names are so unique that he/she is the only person in the world who seems to have had it.

What unique names are in your family tree?

Where Did They Get These Names From???

Did you ever wonder how  your ancestors came up with some of the names they gave their children? Many of the names are easy to figure out, as they were popular for the time or obviously bestowed on a newborn baby in honor of grandparents or other close relatives. Middle names weren’t commonly given in colonial times, unless the family was German. By the mid-1800s, lot of people had two given names, but sometimes there were a few surprises.

Here are a few examples in my family trees:

  1. David Harris Hicks – David was the son of Israel Hicks and Abigail Carlisle and was born in 1829 in Buctouche, New Brunswick, Canada. His other seven siblings didn’t seem to have middle names, except for his sister, Elida Ann. I have never found any clues as to Abigail Carlisle’s mother’s maiden name. I immediately wondered if David might have been named not only in honor of his grandmother’s surname, but maybe even for her father. What did I find? Well, if he was named for his maternal grandmother’s family, I found no evidence for or against the theory. However, there was a somewhat popular traveling minister in the area and I tend to think he was named for him.
  2. Elbridge Gerry Chadwick – The first time I came across this name, I wondered where anyone ever got the idea to saddle a baby with a name like that. Elbridge was the grandfather of my cousin Charles, who did so much to help with my family history research. His grandfather was born in 1833 in Tennants Harbor, Maine and Maine is the clue here. Elbridge Thomas Gerry (1744 in MA-1814) was the fifth vice president of the United States. It is from his name that we get the political term “gerrymandering,” a process to draw political districting lines to favor the party in power. There was also Elbridge Gerry, his grandson, born 1813 and died in 1886, served as a U.S. Congressman from Maine. The Gerry family were Democrats, so Charles’s grandfather’s name shows a definite preference in his political leanings.
  3. Emsley Harrison Brasher – E.H., as he was known, was born in 1841 in Christian County, Kentucky and died in 1886 in Hopkins County, Texas. He was Dave’s 2X great grandfather. There were Harrison families living in Christian County in 1840, but no Emsley Harrison and no Emsley surnamed families. In a broader search, I found some Emsley Harrisons born in England and North Carolina about the same time as E.H. Where did his parents get his name? There are no famous people and no family ties with either surname. I think they just liked it and wanted to name their son something unique. This from parents named Hampton and Altezara!

Do you have any ancestors who were given unusual  names that you hoped were leads to ancestral lines? I’d love to hear your stories.