Week 6 – Favorite Name

Favorite name? Ugh. It’s so tempting to skip this week! I’ve got names that some may find unique or unusual. Experience, Silence, Deliverance, Thankful… Though, if you have ancestors from colonial New England, you likely won’t bat an eye at these names. I’ve got names that I find unusual, but perhaps people who have been researching their French Canadian ancestry see as ordinary. Names like Isaie, Leocadie, and Exina.

One of my favorite names is Roger Williams. The Original Rebel is my 12th great grandfather. Given the boot by Massachusetts in 1636 for heresy, rabble-rousing, and spreading “new and dangerous opinions”, Roger gathered some like-minded friends, and traveled south a bit. He purchased a parcel of land from the Narragansett Indians and formed the settlement Providence Plantations.

There are also names that have been passed down through the generations. In some cases, the parent choosing the name had no idea it was a family name, or there was an adoption and the adoptive parents coincidentally chose a name that was in the birth parents family, causing the continuation of the name to be just a happy accident.

I’m pretty sure my grandmother told everyone she met after 1972 that my name went back 5 generations. The name Ellen began with my grandmother’s grandmother, Ellen Cylinda Andrews. Ellen Cylinda was born in Johnston, Rhode Island on 31 March 1854. Her daughter Mary Ellen Wilbur was born on 09 April 1887 most likely in Cranston, Rhode Island. Next in the line of Ellens was my grandmother, Hazel Ellen Brayton. Gram was born in Scituate, Rhode Island on 30 March 1916. My aunt was christened Judith Ellen Hawkins. When I was born my mother put some thought into my name. She wanted a name that wouldn’t generate a bunch of nicknames. She went through her mental Rolodex of women she knew, and remembered a woman named Ellen she had worked with at Sax 5th Avenue a few years before. She mentioned the name to my father who replied that his mother would be happy because Ellen was in her family beyond just being the middle name of her and his sister. It was settled – I was to be Ellen Lee.

Another name that has been passed down through the generations is Elizabeth. Even with an adoption in the family, the name has endured. The first Elizabeth was Elizabeth O’Donnell who was born around 1848 in County Donegal, Ireland. Her first daughter was born in Providence, Rhode Island 24 November 1871 and was given the name Rose, presumably after her mother Rosanna. Her second daughter was named Elizabeth. Rose gave birth to Elizabeth Marsden on 30 Aug 1899. Rose’s sister Elizabeth also named one of her daughters Elizabeth… Elizabeth Marsden’s daughter, my grandmother, was Marie Elizabeth. My mother is Elizabeth Rose. My sister and her daughter both have the middle name of Elizabeth.

Despite the number of unusual names and the over abundance of Johns, Marys, and Michaels, I have to say that Elizabeth is my favorite name. Whenever I hear it, it makes me think of the women I love and our maternal ancestors.

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