Thursday, 29 June 2017

#52Stories, Week 22, A fascination with names

This is a topic I made up because I couldn't find one to suit in the list for this week. 

Names, and the fascination of them. 

Is there a name for that ? Surely there must be.

For as long as I can remember I have liked names. Why do we have the names we have ? What influenced our parents to make the choices they did ?

I remember spending my pocket money on little books filled with names, their origins and meaning. They were great for all of the stories I wrote – offering options for character names other than Susan, Mary, Jane etc.

When Dad began doing family research that provided a whole new source and something a bit different to focus on. Discovering the names of aunts, uncles, grandparents and their siblings, and the generations before them as well.

Why did some use their middle Christian name as their preferred name – and why did some alternate throughout their lives. Where did nicknames and diminutives come from ? Why did they just stick with the same names ? I had books with 2500+ to choose from – but mostly the family tree was filled with Mary, Elizabeth, Anne and Sarah & for the boys James, Thomas, Francis, William and John.

Occasionally though there were bursts of originality; Peternell, Kerrenhappuch, Hephzibar, Roxillanna, Zenobia,

I would look for trends for instance when flower names seemed popular, or gemstones. How many Ruby, Beryl, Jade and Pearl were there ? And why not Sapphire; is Garnet a boy’s name or a girl’s ? Or Violet, Daisy, Lily and Rose – what about Magnolia ?

Boy’s names don’t seem to follow the same sort of trends, until more recently. Saint’s names, family names, homage to royalty or clans, sportspeople.

The trends were obvious at school. So many Mark's, Craig's and Steven's; Debra's, Donna's and Susan's in my classes.

How did anyone ever keep track of each other at family gatherings when there might have been a father named James, for his father and several other younger James' possibly children of James' brothers - all named for their grandfather, and then cousins sharing other family names; John, Francis, Mary, Ann, Elizabeth. Were they Jimmy, Jamie, James, Jim or did they have different nicknames ? Little Jim, Jim-Bob (if they were lucky enough to have a second Christian name).

Some names are used infrequently, are they the ones that were popular just at that time perhaps. Others have me really intrigued about why they are repeated through generations. 

Some parents gave their children the names of church leaders, or presidents  - George Washington and Benjamin Franklin; Bramwell; and possibly even godparents - Elizabeth Ginder.

What was so special about the first person to have a particular name, that inspired others to name their children with the same combination and for others to introduce mutations of the original over time. Minnie Mildred appears as a combination in one branch SIX times, sometimes with a surname added as an extra christian name to further point to the original bearer of the name. Plus there are two more who dropped Minnie but kept the surnames. Maybe there is another Minnie or Mildred further back who I haven't discovered yet, who was the inspiration.

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