Monday, January 08, 2007

What's in a name?

Recently, I purchased the Oxford Dictionary of First Names, mainly because we are looking for baby names (I'm pregnant), but also because it looked like it might be a good literature, writing and genealogy reference, thereby extending it's usefulness quite a bit. I wasn't disappointed at all. In addition to all the names still in modern use, I've learned quite a bit about the origins of some of the more unusual (to modern ears) first names of my ancestors, like Dorcas, Kenelm, Lamont, and Lavinia. I've also discovered an interesting fact about my father and grandfather's first name: Harlan. According to the book:

Harlan [male] Mainly U.S.: transferred use of the surname, in origin a local name from any of various places in England called Harland, from Old English har 'grey', hær 'rock, tumulus', or hara 'hara' + land 'tract of land'. Use as a given name honours the American judge John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911), a conservative Republican who was nevertheless a pioneering supporter of civil rights in the Supreme Court. He was a descendant of the Quaker George Harland from Durham, England, who emigrated to Delaware in 1687, and became governor there in 1695.
VARIANT: Harland.

My grandfather was born in 1920, so he was likely named by my great grandparents Francis Grant and Grace (McGimpsey) Geyer directly after Judge John Marshall Harlan, or is only once removed from this naming (i.e., named after someone who was named after the judge).


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