Yes. It's a Name - by Gail Walczyk 

Collecting one's family or genealogy is fast becoming as popular as collecting stamps, coins or baseball cards. Now, with computers and the internet, it's easy to "surf the net" in hopes of finding someone who will share their family information. Most of this information is undocumented and needs to be checked against primary sources to make sure it is correct. But it still can be fun especially if you find a long lost and distant cousin in California who knows who your great great grandfather was.

Along with the information may come some strange names that look like they are made up. They aren't. Just like the names used today, at one time they were just as popular. In the 1700 and 1800s our ancestors named their children after biblical figures, like Elihu or Alihu which is a male name that means "He is my God." In the Bible, Elihu was a young friend of Job.

Josiah means "fire of the Lord" and Zebulon means to honor. Some Hebrew female names that we see in our Eastern Shore records are Keziah, Zipporah, Judah, Euphemia, Triphenia, and others. Keziah means "a powdered cinnamon-like bark, or fragrant." She was one of Job's daughters. Keturah means "a burnt offering," Zipporah is "a bird," and Judah means "praise." Names with Greek or latin meanings were also used. Euphemia or Eyphemia is Greek meaning "good speech" or "well spoken." Triphenia is also Greek meaning "delicate," and Sinah in Greek means "a sign."

Here are some more... Orlando is a form of Roland which is Latin meaning "golden or yellow." Orlando was the nephew of King Charles of England. Alonzo or Alonza comes from the Old English for "noble" and Latin for "funds" and means "a nobleman's estate." Children were sometimes named for noted people of the time and area or even the maiden name of their mother or grandmother. In the late 1900's it was common to name a child after the local doctor such as Dr. Charles Gladstone who practiced on the Islands.

There were quite a few Benjamin Franklins, George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons. Wesley was the last name of the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley. Lorenzo Dow was a early, locally famous Methodist Minister as was Joseph Lybrand and William Seymour. Some names can be traced back to the early settlers. Early in the history of Northampton, Accomac and Somerset counties babies were being named "Scarburgh," "Littleton," "Denwood," "Severn," "Covington," "Parker," and "Sacker." These were all last names of either grandparents, neighbors, or well known and admired local citizens.

Colonial spelling was not formalized as it is today. The clerks of the courts, ministers, and census takers wrote the names just like they thought they heard them such as Bothanna, Britann, and Kissy. Bothanna is actually Parthanna and is Greek for "virgin." Britann is Britannia and means Great Britain, and Kissy was a nickname for Keziah. Names with local origins sometimes were written as what they thought it should be.

Nicknames or pet names were also used in the records. Sedonias which in Hebrew meaning "entice" became Donies. Marys were known as Manies and Sophronias which in Greek means "knowledge" became Floras and Hesters were Hessys.

Today, we have become accustomed to the written word. Some of the older names are not used today, or sometimes misspelled. If you come across a name that is foreign to you, a little research will no doubt prove that it is a name and that it does mean something.

The End.

© Copyright 1997-2009 by Gail M. Walczyk

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