Tag Archives: strange names

You Named Your Baby WHAT? Odd Names

Today I’m going to spotlight some of the odd names, er-ah, more ‘interesting’ names I have run across in my family tree.

Obviously these people did not have the aid of some of the 100 or so books to aid in naming your baby. They did not have 60,000 Baby Names, or 100,000 Baby Names  (both from Christian Books.com) or The Complete Book of Baby Names, which outdoes 100,000 by listing 100,001. Nor did they have Baby Names 1840 (Okay, but there IS a Baby Names 2014). Although I suspect they could have put together an early version of The Complete Book of Hebrew Baby Names.

Family Bible Title Page

Family Bible Title Page

What did they have?  The BIBLE, and their prolific use of the “Begats” just may explain why nobody wants to read the Old Testament any more.

Bible begats--odd names

Bible begats

Because mostly the Book of Numbers and the Book of Chronicles begat odd names.

Rhema Anderson (Fair)

I mention my aunt Rhema Anderson Fair, not because she had a strange or funny name (in my judgement), but it is a rare name.  Plus she changed it a couple of times.  Named Rema for the Biblical meaning of “the word,” she changed the spelling to Remah when she was a girl, and later settled on Rhema, but still spent her life answering questions from people who wanted to know if she was a man or a woman.

Rhema’s mother, my grandfather’s first wife, had the unusual name Lillis, by the way. Which according to whom you believe could mean “of the night” or could mean “lily.” Or, if you take an ancient Irish meaning, it could be outlaw. Take your pick. It is also a surname, usually Irish.
Lillis named Remah/Rhema’s brother Telmar, which might be Scandanavian, might be something else. Lillis was a very well-read lady, but Heaven knows where she came up with that name.

Ima Bird (b. 1903)

My mother often mentioned Ima Bird, a cousin, with a “Can you believe they named her that?” comment.

Ima Bird is my 2nd Cousin once removed.

Ima was the daughter of my maternal grandfather, L. Guy Anderson‘s uncle (William McCabe Anderson). The Birds and Andersons were connected in many ways. The family farms stood next to each other in Monroe Township, Holmes County, Ohio, and besides the Bird/Anderson parents of Ima, both Guy and his uncle Frank Anderson married Bird girls. (I am descended from Guy’s 2nd wife, not from Lillis Bird)  Additionally, one of Guy’s aunts married a Bird and another broke her engagement to a Bird.

But regardless of how much teasing Ima got in 8th grade, hers is not the name that fascinates me the most.

Hepzibah Death (1680-1769)

I cannot imagine having “Death” as a last name, and then to add the Biblical Hepzibah as a first name, just compounds the wonder.

Hepzibah Death is my 6th great-grandmother.

The parents of the several Hepzibahs that show up in my tree found her name in the Old Testament. As this explanation shows, Hephzibah, when translated literally from the Hebrew, it is actually a “delightful” name–meaning “My delight is in her.”

The last name Death has a confusing lineage.  Some claim that it is from Belgium, derived from a place name —  a common source for surnames. This theory holds that people from Ath were called d’Ath, which when they moved to England, morphed into Death.  Others claim that d’Ath is just an affectation and it is actually an old English word spelled several ways, but meaning “death.”

I cannot decide whether Hepzibah improved her name by marrying David How, even though Hepzibah How is at least alliterative. She must have been well thought of in the How family, because other girls were named Hepzibah after her.

The most fascinating tidbit I found was in an old history that claimed that the Congress in New England banned the use of the name, and people using that name changed their names to “How” or “Howe.” (Meaning Hepzibah Death was ahead of the curve?) Not only have I been able to find any other evidence for that statement, but if you search for the surname today, you will find both Death and d’Ath and other spellings in use.

Thankful Savage (b. 1743)

The name Thankful has a nice, calm ring to it, and was one of those virtuous names popular with the Puritans.You can find a fascinating list of Puritan virtue names here.  How’d you like to be called “Abstinence?”

Although Thankful Stone (her maiden name) sounds rather Zen, but poor Thankful did not improve her moniker by marrying a man named Savage.

Thankful Savage was my 4th Great Grand Aunt, sister to Jeduthan Stone, the Minuteman. The man she married descended from another Puritan settler.

An earlier instance of the name in my line, Thankful Briggs, married William C. Bassett, grandson of the pioneer William Bassett–first of that line to land in Massachusetts from England. William L. Bassett is my 6th great-grandfather, and Thankful was second of his three wives, but not in my direct line. Another one, Thankful Banks married a son of Jeduthan Stone.

 Waitstill Death (b. 1728)

Waitstill Vose (1688-1750)

Now there is a name to drive your spell-checker crazy! The Puritans strike again, hopefully naming a child with a quality they pray it will possess.

I love the graph on this page that shows that the name Waitstill peaked in popularity in 1640 and had disappeared by the end of the 19th century. I certainly never met a Waitstill — did you? And yet, I have found two — mother and daughter — in my family tree.

Waitstill Vose, like Thankful Stone, made an unfortunate choice of husbands. She became Waitstill Death. But wait — there’s more — she named her daughter Waitstill Death, too!

My relationship here is tenuous.  Waitstill Vose was the 2nd wife (not direct line) of my 6th Great Uncle.

In fact, I found very little information about it, other than the tidbit that it was shortened to Waity, and from that came another odd name Wady. The other interesting thing I discovered is that it was used for both males and females and is also a surname–although that is also rare.

Sardine Stone 1768-1834

I know that astute readers read yesterday’s article about the Stone family who survived (mostly) their pioneering move from Massachusetts to Ohio in the 1790s. And because you are astute, you wondered about the name, Sardine Stone.

For anyone who insists that you must have a “normal” sounding name in order to succeed in politics, think again.  My distant (Male) cousin, Sardine was elected to the Ohio State legislature many times.

Nine years after Ohio became a state in 1803, Sardine was elected, as a Republican, to Ohio’s House of Representatives. He was 44 years old. He served in 1812, 1813 and 1816. (No idea what happened to 1814). In 1817 he ran and was elected to the Senate and re elected in 1818.

Apparently in 1819 some dirty work at the cross road threatened his political career.  Six townships in the counties he represented had been set aside and not counted. Without those townships the tally was in favor of his challenger Levi Barber (859 votes to Stone’s 771 votes.)

Sardine introduced a petition to the Senate and the Committee of the whole decided to reinstate those townships.  The votes in the six townships gave 186 votes to Stone and only 28 to Barber. Once they were added back, Sardine Stone won re-election by 956-887 votes. Whew!

He went on to be re-elected every year through the 21st Assembly in 1822. I would love to know more about his politics and how he got elected, but I have other fish to fry. (Pardon me, Sardine.) After all, his mother may have–rather than a salty fish– had in mind a sardine stone–a type of carnelian that comes in a deep red. The stone is not precious, but the name is decidedly rare.

Sardine Stone is my first cousin 5 x removed, according to Ancestry.com. (Couldn’t prove it by me!)


More odd baby names lurk in the foilage of my family tree– Part Two will come along one of these days.  Stay tuned.

Research Notes

Genealogical Dictionary of New England Settlers Showing Three Generations of Those Who Came Before May 1692. (1860-62) Vol. 2, Page 33, says of the name Death, “This name was common in that part of the county, some yrs. since, but within few yrs. by the legislat. it has been changed to How”

Several records are preserved on line of the names of legislators in the early Ohio Assemblies.  The most common is the Legislative Manual of the State of Ohio published by the Ohio General Assembly.  I learned about Sardine Stone’s political affiliation from a web site A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825.

The History of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio has this gem from a newspaper article about a meeting of the “Republican delegate from townships”, September 20, 1813, that nominated Sardine Stone to run for re-election to the House.

“At the present crisis when our country is beset by savages of the forest and by the civilized savages of Great Britain, it becomes the imperious duty of every good citizen to exert himself.”


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