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Thursday, May 24, 2007

They Believed in Witches, But Not in Jinxes

Have an ancestor named for a dead sibling? There's a word for such a recycled name: necronym. They were especially popular in colonial America.

Necronyms—names of the dead—were given 80 percent of the time when a child of the same sex was later born. Ephraim and Elizabeth Hartwell of Concord, Massachusetts, lost their five children, Ephraim, Samuel, John, Elizabeth, and Isaac, to "throat Distemper" in a single month in 1740. The parents survived and had nine more children, named Elizabeth, Samuel, Abigail, Ephraim, John, Mary, Sarah, Isaac, and Jonas. [Link]

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