Sunday 12 July 1668

[Continued from yesterday. P.G.] […overnight took some pills] which work with me pretty betimes, being Lord’s day, and so I within all day. Busy all the morning upon some accounts with W. Hewer, and at noon, an excellent dinner, comes Pelling and W. Howe, and the latter staid and talked with me all the afternoon, and in the evening comes Mr. Mills and his wife and supped and talked with me, and so to bed. This last night Betty Michell about midnight cries out, and my wife goes to her, and she brings forth a girl, and this afternoon the child is christened, and my wife godmother again to a Betty.

21 Annotations

Robert Gertz  •  Link

God blesses fools and children, Sam...You're lucky Betty didn't decide to "confess" to Bess in her agony, fearing death and God's punishment. Not that poor Betty had anything herself to confess, but it's usually the case an innocent like her feels more guilty over things like Sam's groping forays and the box incident than say a Betty Martin who can take such things in stride and even take control of the situation.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"This last night Betty Michell about midnight cries out, and my wife goes to her, and she brings forth a girl, and this afternoon the child is christened, and my wife godmother again to a Betty."

A year ago last 5 May, Betty Mitchell had brought forth another child -- "the child’s name Elizabeth" , but 8 June: "I hear this day poor Michell’s child is dead."

Given the high incidence of childhood death, this re-use of a cherished name in this way was common, and lasted long after -- and not just in England: e.g., Vincent van Gogh had been preceded by an older brother by that name who had died.

Jenny  •  Link

I've always understood it to be very bad luck for a child to be named after a dead sibling.

GrahamT  •  Link

In my geneology research, I was amzed at how often a dead child's name was "re-used", sometime three times before a child with that name survived. Perhaps this was to carry on a traditional family name.
Even my Grandfather, William Edmund, was named after a brother who died between the ages of 5 and 8, perhaps while his mother was pregnant with him.
The practice seems to have stopped by the twentieth century - in my family at least.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"[Jenny's] always understood it to be very bad luck for a child to be named after a dead sibling." Such a superstition's existence at all attests to the commonality of the practice, I'd say, not its rarity; but I first heard of it only in college (many years ago) in a lecture by an art-historian, titled, I believe "The First Vincent van Gogh."

Dororhy Willis  •  Link

In the 1400s the Paston family had a son John and then another son John. The brothers were distinguished by being called "the Elder" and "the Younger." This example is often cited to teach genealogists that such designations do not always indicate father and son.

Jenny  •  Link

What also intrigues me is the very small pool of names used.

AnnieC  •  Link

My nephew, aged 40, bears the same name as that given to an older brother who was stillborn. It is not a traditional family name or of any special significance.

Jenny  •  Link

...and no sign anywhere of Puritan names e.g. Humility, Charity etc. I've just looked at the list of the passengers on the Mayflower and "Puritan" names don't appear there either. Very interesting. Did Puritan naming begin in the New World?

Kate Bunting  •  Link

I don't think so - there was Praise-God Barebones. Perhaps it was less common than we sometimes imagine?

Mary  •  Link

Puritan patterns of naming children.

The following link provides some interesting material that relates to both England and New England.

The most hortatory names seem to have occurred amongst Sussex Puritans during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Other groups tended to rely on names with Biblical histories rather than fashioning their own.

A simple Google of "Puritan names" brings up a number of relevant sites.…

Jenny  •  Link

Thank you Mary. I'd Googled a few sites on Puritan names but didn't find that one. Very interesting. On thinking about the small pool of names used in the 17th Century, I realised that we still use a small pool of names and the generational pool of names can almost pinpoint our date of birth.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Right, Jenny. The U.S. Social Security Administration devotes an entire portion of their website to this. You can look up the most popular (in the U.S.) boys' and girls' names for children born in any year from 1879 to 2010. See

Australian Susan  •  Link

In Pepys' own family, only 4 of them survived to adulthood and the name John was reused (probably because it was the name of the father?) both for the firstborn (who died aged 7) and lastborn son.

An example of this in the late 20th century: I used to work for an agency which supported children with very severe disabilities. We had siblings on our books with identical names (both 1st and middle). The background was that the mother was told her 1st child was most unlikely to survive when she was heavily pregnant with the 2nd child, so they had the second one baptised and registered with the same names. The 1st child, against all odds, survived as did the second (although both had severe genetic disabilities). There were no other children, so these 2 had I and II aded after their names.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Mary's "Puritan patterns of naming children." link lists as one of the three types of names a "Necronymn - ...the name of a dead child that is given to a later child in the same family"

GrahamT  •  Link

The Necronymn wasn't unique to Puritans. It is common in my family tree from the 17th until the 20th century, although there is no history of puritanism in my heritage. As East Midlands agricultural labourers they were from a similar background to the Sussex and East Anglian Puritans though, so this may have been a social rather than a religious custom.

languagehat  •  Link

"Necronymn": This is what happens when amateurs go around trying to coin words. It should be "necronym" (cf. synonym, antonym).

GrahamT  •  Link

“Necronymn" is what happens when one copies a typo, as both Terry and I did. The word is spelled correctly later in the source article. I don't think the author coined the word in 2004 as it was used as the title of an academic paper in 1998.

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