For name’s sake

What's in a name? 

Hilarity. Pure gold chuckles. And I'm not even talking about Elon Musk and Grimes's baby.

One of the joys of family history, or any kind of historical research, are the wonderful names you discover. Although you will unearth plenty of Johns, Marys, Georges & Annes (snore) you might, if you are lucky, find something more exotic.

I have very fond memories of a Horrible Histories episode where a Victorian relief teacher called the class roll with such gems as Minty Badger, Princess Cheese, Happy, Okay and Toilet. Minty Badger was a real person, full name Aminta Badger, Minty for short. Whether Princess Cheese and Toilet etc. were real names or mis-transcriptions is less clear, but they are nonetheless très amusant.

Christchurch City Libraries' Church Registers are a treasure trove for Christchurch and North Canterbury family history research but also provide us with endless entertainment, many are too risqué to share in a library blog but here is a small non-smutty sample: Rose Bush, Norah Nutt, Iona Pidgeon, Rhoda Pidgeon, Ida Strange & Minnie Fox.

Other epic names we've come across include: Christmas Tantrum, Equator Thunderbolt, Hazel Nutt, Ada Poo and Raspberry Sucker, oh and the Rolls family with Ocean, Benbow, Seaflower, Daisy, Bluebell, Snowdrop, Hector, Myrtle & Ivy. Blimey. 

In my own family we have a couple of zingers: Belchis Smell, sometimes recorded as Belsches Smeal and even Belches Smeall - I love them all, and Smart Brand. Now, Smart Brand to my mind sounds like a budget supermarket product line meets Glad infomercial.

Smart Brand was born in 1801 at St Anne's Well in Ceres, in the lovely kingdom of Fife, Scotland and the name Smart passed down the line for several generations. Whether Smart had any intellectual prowess is unknown, he died aged 46 from consumption but left behind lots of baby Brands.

I also like this article from the Waikato Independent in 1938 called Sins of Past Parentsopens a new window which names and shames dated or overtly patriotic names such as: (Andrew) Victor Diamond Jubilee Gray, (Dorothy) Queenie Victoria Mowlem and (Gordon) Sedd-el-Bahr Elsmore and (Rosalin) Dardanell Smith Stanley. The author, with the more prosaic but slightly fishy name of John Dory also bags Eos Enid Lewis, Venus Cleopatra Sharkey and (Jamie) Hefti Strieff.

So whenever people moan about the names that are in vogue today, we family historians can smile patronisingly secure in the knowledge that crazy, idiosyncratic names really are nothing new.

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