Emigrants to America in the eighteenth-century brought with them established child naming traditions from the various countries, and within countries the various regions, in which they had lived. While these traditions changed and evolved over time, they often resulted in the reuse of the same family first names, and the use of family surnames as middle names, down through the generations.
Chosen first and middle names frequently reflected the desire to honor prior family members from both the mother's and father's lines. Sometimes, rather than a family connection, chosen first or middle names were selected from Hebrew or biblical sources, especially for girls, to reinforce religious convictions or precepts. These names then passed down through the generations as subsequent children were named to honor a former family member who had received such a name. In nineteenth-century America, some parents also chose to name children after a famous person from the worlds of literature, politics, art, or social action. The one constant, regardless of historical naming tradition, was that these traditions were not followed rigidly and cannot be relied upon to decipher family relationships.
In her study of child naming traditions in early New England, Gloria L. Main found it was common practice to name children after a preceding relative or, in the case of some religions, after a godparent (who was often a grandparent). What differed among groups from different regions in New England was the family member from whom a name was chosen for the first born boy and girl, and for subsequent children.
According to David Hackett Fischer, the Quakers settling in America had a naming tradition that honored both the father's and mother's line in equal measure.
First born boy was named after the mother's father.
Second born boy was named after the father's father.
Third born boy was named after the father.
First born girl was named after the father's mother.
Second born girl was named after the mother's mother.
Third born girl was named after the mother.
It was also common practice among the Quakers to adopt the maiden name of either the father's or mother's mother as part of girls' names. These naming traditions, however, were not always followed by members of the Religious Society of Friends, providing flexibility in the choice of names given to many Quaker children. They were followed often enough, however, to account for people bearing the same names down through the generations.
Center of Philena Cooper Hambleton's quilt, 1853, bearing the names of her six
sisters-and-brothers-in-law. Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth. Photograph
by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The Benjamin Hambleton family of Columbiana County, Ohio, provides an interesting example of both traditional and non-traditional child naming in a single, early nineteenth-century Quaker family.
Benjamin Hambleton married Ann Hanna, the great-aunt of Senator Marcus Hanna of Ohio, in June of 1815 and had nine children by her, seven of whom survived.
Ann Hanna (1797-1867) and Benjamin (1789-1865) Hambleton.
All photographs of the Hambleton family courtesy of the Jerome Walker family.
Their first child was a daughter whom they named Rachel after Benjamin's mother. Rachel was born in 1816.
Their fourth child and second girl was named Catherine Hanna after Ann's mother Catherine and Ann's maiden name. Catherine was born in 1822.
Catherine Hanna Hambleton (1822-1893).
Their ninth child and third surviving girl was named Martha Kester, Kester being the maiden name of Benjamin's mother. Martha was born in 1833.
Martha Kester Hambleton (1833-1923),
All three of their surviving daughters were named according to Quaker naming traditions. But then we get to the sons!
The Hambletons were vociferous and active abolitionists whose home in Butler Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, was a station on the Underground Railroad leading north to Lake Erie. Benjamin, his oldest daughter Rachel, and his oldest son Osborn, were members of the local New Garden Anti-Slavery Society. His son Osborn founded the Forest Home Anti-Slavery Society in Poweshiek County, Iowa, after he and his wife Philena moved west in 1854-55.
The flexibility in choosing names for Quaker children is aptly illustrated by the names given to Ann's and Benjamin's sons.
Their first born son was named Osborn after Charles Osborn, a local abolitionist and editor of the Lisbon, Ohio, anti-slavery newspaper The Philanthropist.
Osborn Hambleton (1818-1882).
Their second son was named Levi after the noted abolitionist Levi Coffin.
Levi Hambleton (1820-1899).
Their third son was named Joel Garretson after another Midwestern abolitionist.
Joel Garretson Hambleton (1824-1912).
Their fourth son was named Thomas Clarkson after the Englishman Thomas Clarkson who founded the British Committee for the Abolition of the African Slave Trade in 1787.
Thomas Clarkson Hambleton ((1831-1903).
None of the Hambleton boys were named according to the Quaker naming tradition cited earlier, but all of the girls were. Perhaps like many Puritan families who chose to give their children biblical names based on their religious convictions, the Hambletons chose to select the names for their male children based on social and political convictions that were compatible with their religious beliefs in equality and social justice.
Chenoweth, Lynda Salter. Philena's Friendship Quilt: A Quaker Farewell to Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2009.
Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: 1989.
Hambleton, Chalkley. Genealogical Record of the Hambleton Family. Chicago: Published for the author, 1887.
Main, Gloria L. "Naming Children in Early New England" in Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XXVII:I (Summer 1996), 1-27.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.