GENEALOGY LIFE

Name Game: Celebrities Have Nothing on the Rest of Us

Megan Smolenyak

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Much has been made in recent years of the proclivity of celebrities to give their children unusual names. Who among us wasn’t at least a little befuddled upon first encountering the names Moon Unit Zappa, Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran, and Moxie Crimefighter Jillette? Contrary to popular belief, though, celebrities have nothing on the rest of us. Distinctive names have been with us through the ages. Want proof? I submit the following:

  • Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were far from the first to add an Apple to their family tree. A quick search reveals 76 Apples in the 1940 census and 28 in the Social Security Death Index (including Apple Pie Willis).
  • Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf named their son Pilot Inspekter in 2003, but Pilot Light of Tennessee was born 101 years earlier.
  • Paris? Dallas? Brooklyn? Naming offspring after locations is so 19th century. In fact, there were a whopping 2,323 people named Paris in the 1900 census, along with New Jersey Cannon, New Orleans Boice, Newark Berkowitz, Prague Sherman, Moscow Beard, Cairo Izard, Munich Miller, and Bombay Pasquale. Detroit Foreman, Detroit Francisco and Detroit Fausenfriend are listed in alphabetical order in one database I perused, and both England Bobo and London England liked their names so much that they passed them on to their sons.
  • One name that must have been hard to live up is Brilliant Victory, and I can’t help but wonder if folks consulted Gift King (now deceased) each holiday season for shopping advice. Several people named Prince Charming scattered across the U.S. likely also deal with name pressure from time to time.
  • Several people from Georgia (including a Confederate soldier) were named Love Joy Peace, and I’m curious whether Handsome Major ever met Handsome Minor.
  • Slightly more than 185 Americans named Square have died since the early 1960s. Among them are Square Sleigh, Square Wheat and Square Kitchen.
  • Certain names like Giggle Davis and Hopeful Hudson make me smile, as do their cheery and more literal companions Smiles Bliss, Smiley Corn, Smiley Day, Smiles Gonzalez and Smiley Magee.
  • Sacred Heart has passed away, but the torch is being…

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Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (www.MeganSmolenyak.com)