Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fearless Females, March 3, 2011: Names in My Memories

Thank you to Lisa Alzo, of The Accidental Genealogist , for this always interesting and evocative month long series about the Fearless Females of our past.

March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.
I share my middle name with my mother's sister;  however, her name came from my grandmother fanciful naming practice.  My mother's three older sisters carried family names; the twins each had a grandmother's name for a middle name - Aurelia and Maria(h); the first born Irene was named for my grandfather's closest sister Lettie Irene.  However, when it came to my mother and her younger sister, their names came from books that my grandmother read.

I miss the days when children shared names with parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles - so much so I am going to share with you a rant that I wrote a few years ago.


My eyelids fluttered, trying to ignore the early morning light – or is it moonlight. I shut my eyes tight so that I might go back to that dark caccoon of sleep. But, no—the eiree half light conspires with my mind to go awandering. Tonight, or is it morning, no matter, names flit through my half consciousness. Names from my childhood, names of my past. Jeep. Earl Kesksy was his real name, which fitted him well as did Jeep. He was short, stocky and feisty man, and one of my childhood heroes. How he got the name of Jeep was always a mystery to me. Perhaps the war, but for whatever reason that short stocky name – Jeep – fitted him well.

Then there was tall, lanky, Boze with his bristly black hair and beard. I knew his last name, Wilson, and the full names of his wife and children, but never did I know Boze by any other name. He was killed by widowmaker when I was about 15, not too long after my dad was killed.

Then there were those strange and wonderful guys who spoke with a variety of long slow drawls, Arky, Big Arky, Little Arky, Oakie, Big Oakie, Little Oakie, and of course, Gutter Oakie (cuz he was so fast a gutting ducks!); there was Tex, and Utah, and even a guy named Nevada. Then there was Fid, Fid Ralston, who taught me the proper way to saddle my horse, while telling me stories of roundups, roping, and riding. O, and I can’t forget Kit, Kit Carson, my first true love --- when I was 5 and he was 18 or so. He worked on the ranch and was a good friend of my Daddy and Momma. I would hold onto Kit’s hand, follow him whenever he was around the shop and barns, and profess that I would marry him when I grew up.

Daddy was even called Mac or Angus, which I thought strange because neither was his name. Little did I realize that ruddy Scotsman who was my father also had nicknames that came from his Scots background and looks.

When I started school that I began to notice that most people had more boring names – Jack, Lyle, Duane, Morris, Virgil, Mary, Shirley, Nora, Ella --- and then of course, the ordinary names of my siblings and myself. The interesting names of my childhood receded into my memory bank --- just waiting for me to once again  pull them out and remember the potato fields, Old Tig, the last of work horses, who lived out his life in tall grass, potato harvest with Mexican nationals coming in on buses to pick potatoes and making the air alive with the sounds of their talk and music, hunting season, green fields of alfalfa, dozers clearing snow drifts --- odd that names can bring back all those old memories.

My grandmother had a way with names. Mother said she read too much. I loved the names that my grandmother wove from our family history and her world of books--- my twin aunts had wonderful names --- Loise Aureila and Joyce Mariah. How those middle names, which were names of their grandmothers, tantalized my tongue and imagination. Ruth Evangeline, my mother, she said that she was named after her brother’s school teacher, but my mind goes immediately to Longfellow’s Evangeline and images of lost love. I know not how my grandmother came up with Gail Gwendolyn, but if I let my mind flow I see images of medieval Welsh maidens kneeling along a bough strewn stream.

Even without my Grandmother’s penchant for the romantic names, I miraculously named my children well; my first born daughter  for her grandmothers, a name that has grown more beautiful as has she; the second born daughter  for a dear friend and because I loved the sound and images the name brought to me which has become the embodiment of my beautiful girl; and our son's name suits him well and he likes that sense of history that goes with his name. Little did I know that both of his names are old family names from both sides of our family. Originally, I only thought about keeping traditional the RAH initials which have been handed down from my husband's family for generations – Richard Allens, Ralph Anthonys, Rossiter Allen, and now a son and grandson also carry on that "RAH" tradition.

I was fortunate to have missed the naming fantasies that enveloped my classmates, and their children and children’s children - names with no history, names of movie stars and celebrities, good and beautiful names twisted, tweaked, and twanged to make them different. So much more satisfying to me, to search through my ancestors and be able to trace the lineage through the children’s names. This babe was named for the father’s father/mother or grandfather/grandmother, this babe for the mother’s side, this babe for great grandmother/grandfather, for aunt/uncle --- ahhh, yes, a satisfying linkage of past to future. I do miss that sense of history that is missing from current naming practices  -  or rather lack thereof.

I have often thought that all new parents in my family need a list of the names of their forbearers --- names that have meaning and resonate through the centuries and touch our own time: Adeline, Arthur, Adelaide, Alfreda, Allen, Angus, Agnes, Anthony, Aureila, Almira, Alvira, Alexander, Beth, Benjamin, Bertha, Clementine, Clemmon, Cordielia, Clive, Cleona, Catharina, Celesteer, Evangeline, Elizabeth, Emmeline, Evaline, Gail, George, Gwendolyn, Frank, Ferdinand, Harold, Henry, Irene, Isaac, James, John, Jane, Jacob, Joan, Janet, Jabez, Joyce, Laura, Lloyd, Lorraine, Lois, Loise, Magdelena, Marjorie, Margaret, Matthew, Mariah, Martin, Maryette, Melvina, Olive, Phoebe, Peter, Richard, Rebecca, Robert, Ruth, Ralph, Rossiter, Russell, Samuel, Sarah, Susan, Susanna, Thomas, Verna, Walter, Zelma, Zachary. Names evoke memories and images of a time and place, of people that gave me life and history --- From Jeep to Kit, to Fid to Oakie, Arky & Tex, from Adeline to Zachary --- memories and connections are mine to keep --- by the grace of a name.


  1. Uh-oh! Another awesome idea for a book! A personalized baby-name book, with all the given names used in the family, along with a little bit about each of the people who had those names, maybe even some baby pix of them... and some blank pages at the end where new babies' names could be added... aw, Joan, did I really need another book idea?? LOL!!!

  2. TK, Go for it! It could be a fun project! Were that I had time for another project.