May 21, 2012

What's in a Name? - Part 2

Quick research into my first name didn't turn up anything for the 18th century, so I decided to take a different approach to my persona's name.  Logging into the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I did an advanced search for names starting with the letter E in all vital records in 1735 (the birth year of my persona), refined by birth records, and the keyword "son".  In theory, this would give me a list of names of boys born in New England in 1735 whose names begin with the letter E.  This search wasn't exhaustive, but my goal was to find an appropriate 18th century name, not to do a complete name study.

The results of my search turned up 19 unique names in 65 records.  The results, ranked by popularity, are below.

  • 13 - Ebenezer
  • 11 - Edward
  • 06 - Ephraim
  • 05 - Elifha
  • 05 - Elisha
  • 05 - Ezekiel
  • 04 - Elijah
  • 03 - Edmund
  • 02 - Eliphalet
  • 02 - Ezekell
  • 01 - Elbert
  • 01 - Eli
  • 01 - Elias
  • 01 - Eliazer
  • 01 - Elkanah
  • 01 - Elnathan
  • 01 - Enoch
  • 01 - Enos
  • 01 - Ezeakel
My next step was simply to choose a name.

Ebenezer was the most popular, but my 21st century minds automatically associates the name with Charles Dickens, so that one was out. Edmund was a possibility, since I had an ancestor named Edmund.  A few of the other names were appealing, just due to their spelling.  In the end, I decided on Eli.  Spoken aloud, Elroy and Eli are close, and I sort of like the sound.

My persona now has a name: Eli Davis.

The final step is to actually document the name.  Another advanced search on the NEHGS site, this time for birth records for the first name Eli from 1735, brought up 2 records.  The first was for Eli Metcalf, son of Eleazer and Margaret Metcalf, born in Wrentham, Massachusetts on December 4th [1].  The second was for Eli Luther, son of Eliezer and Hannah Luther, born in Swansea, Massachusetts on July 23rd [2].

Since Eli Metcalf was born in December, the same month as the birth date I have chosen for my persona, I've decided to use his date of birth as that of my fictional Eli Davis.

[1] Thomas W. Baldwin, compiler, Vital Records of Wrentham Massachusetts, To The Year 1850. Volume I - Births, (Boston: F.M. Gilson Company, 1910) (accessed May 21, 2012), 148.

[2] H.L. Peter Rounds, transcriber, Jane Fletcher Fiske and Margaret F. Costello, editors, Vital Records of Swansea, Massachusetts to 1850, (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1992) (accessed May 21, 2012).

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