By Diana Kennedy
This article was published in the April 2014 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
We have all been frustrated wading through lists of John and Mary and it comes as a nice surprise to find some of our ancestors had been given an unusual name. These are some of the more unusual first names I have come across in my own family tree.
The first name that springs to mind that I remember from my childhood was my Auntie Maidie. She was my father’s older sister. Maidie Alice Sewell was born in 1911 in Woolwich, Kent. The name Maidie is either Irish or Scottish meaning young maid, and probably a form of Maisie. Some of the more unusual names on my wider family tree, belong to the family of Auntie Maidie’s husband.
Maidie married Rudolf Fudge Cory in 1937 in Woolwich. Uncle Rudy as I knew him was born in 1911 in Wincanton, Somerset. The name Rudolf is probably Dutch or of German origin and Fudge was his mother’s maiden name. His parents William John Cory and Annie Lucy nee Fudge, certainly came up with some unusual names. Their first born child was Penninah Lavonda Cory born and died in 1909. Penninah is Hebrew in origin, meaning pearl or coral and Lavonda, or Lavonne, a blend of La and Yvonne, which is French and means Yew. She was named after her maternal grandmother whose middle name was Penninah. John and Annie’s second child was Karl Mervyn, born 1910 died 1915. Karl is German for Charles and Mervyn of Welsh origin. Next were twins, the aforementioned Rudolf and his twin brother Fridtjof John. Fridtjof was possibly named after the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen. William and Annie’s last three children had rather more conventional names, Edward 1913, Wanda 1916 and Theodore 1919.
One of Annie Lucy’s uncles was a Uriah Green Fudge born in 1849 in Somerset. Uriah, is Hebrew for God is right.
My mother’s ancestors came from Devon and they also managed to find some unusual names. Perhaps the one I like best is Epenatus who was said to be the first Christian convert in Asia. One of my x4 great grandfathers on my maternal line was, Epenatus Jarvis Chinnick, who died in 1845. Four of his grandchildren were Tabitha Julia Chinnick Head, born 1834, before her mother Mary Tucker Head’s marriage, followed by Epenatus Head, born 1847, Athaliah Head born 1850 and Drusilla Matilda, born 1852, the children of Robert Chinnick and Mary Tucker nee Head. Drusilla is an old Roman name, Drusilla was the daughter of Herod. In mothers line it was a name passed down through several generations, fortunately stopping with my mother, who was called Frances Drusilla.
In other lines there were of course the biblical names such as Amariah Inwood born about 1780 in Steeple Clayton, Buckinghamshire’. Amariah is Hebrew for promised by God. Hepzibah Putnam was born in 1836 in Berkhamsted, Hrt, another Hebrew name meaning my delight is in her. Then from Darsham in Suffolk there is Alethea Smith and her daughter also Alethea born in 1831. Alethea is of Greek origin meaning verity or truth.
[Ed: Another example of a strange Christian name: in John Slaughter’s article on page 3 there is an Applonia who marries Edward Ficker Saul ].