"The Landing of the Pilgrims."(1877)...

My son came home from PreK with a paper pilgrim hat the other day.  After admiring his handiwork, my mind went to the obvious place.

Pilgrim names.

Spokane’s Spokesman-Review reminds us that back in 1620, first baby born to the Pilgrims in New England was named Peregrine.  Big brother was called Resolved.

There were, of course, plenty of men called John and William and women named Mary and Anne.

The more interesting masculine names worn by Plymouth Rock arrivals included:

  • Isaac
  • Bartholomew
  • Love
  • Wrestling
  • Moses
  • Desire
  • Degory (though he may have been Gregory.  Or Digory – we don’t know much about him.)
  • Giles (brother to Constance, Damaris and Oceanus)
  • Oceanus (born en route to Plymouth – see above)
  • Solomon
  • Jasper
  • Myles (Standish, of course)

There were fewer women, but a few stand-out names:

  • Remember
  • Humility
  • Constance (sister to Damaris, Oceanus and Giles)
  • Damaris (see above)
  • Priscilla

I’ve read estimates that only around 25% of the Purtians ever had names that would’ve seemed unusual in their day.  If that’s true, then 75% answered to ordinary appellations for their time, like James and Elizabeth.

It also seems surprisingly consistent with modern day experience.  Around three-quarters of all kids born in the US receive a Top 1000 name.  In the nineteenth century, names ranking in the 900s were only given to a few kids; today, names at those same rankings are worn by a few hundred.  Really unusual names have never been terribly common – but neither was there a moment where every boy was Robert and every girl was Jane.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel of scandal amongst the Puritans, The Scarlet Letter, introduced a few unusual names not worn by the original settlers, including Hester and Pearl.  Most of the other names were unremarkable – Arthur and Roger aren’t popular today, but they don’t make you think of the novel, either.

Even in fiction, not every Puritan was called Flee-Fornication.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I love names from the pilgrims like Remember or Experience (love from afar, of course). An indication of patriotism and puritanism in the earliest American settlers!

  2. Ooh, I love this! I have a soft spot for virtue names anyway, but pilgrim names? Irresistible! Oceanus is one we’ve toyed with for a middle name. There is a vague possibility that he was an ancestor of mine. My mom is a Hopkins whose family (as family legend has it) came over on the Mayflower, and baby Oceanus who was born en route was, I believe, a Hopkins. Knowing he had fabulously named siblings is a great new bit of information to ponder!

    I also tried to sell my hubby on Resolved, but no joy there 🙁

  3. My husband and I had the Virginia from VA argument concerning our coming baby. He wanted to honor his Grandmother; Virginia, but I thought it would be ridiculous to give a child the same name as the state in which they live. We compromised and are using it for a middle.

  4. Bartholomew, Moses, Solomon and Myles are lovely, and I definitely see the appeal of Love. Oceanus is also lovely, but I’m not sure I could bring myself to use it…. Peregrine is wonderful as well!
    Remember is fabulous!!! I love Remember! I don’t think I could use her up front, but I’m definitely using her in the middle along with Loveday…
    Constance, Damaris and Priscilla are also fantastic… 🙂

    And according to behindthename.com Virginia was the name of the first child born in the New World. On Roanoke Island in 1587, but maybe that’s a different story, I don’t know too much about this since it’s not part of ‘my’ history 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Roanoke Island isn’t New England, Dearest! Abby was talking about the pilgrims and Thanksgiving, not the other settlers down in the Southern US.

      1. There you are! I knew I shouldn’t have said anything, but it was my only reference to anything like that… We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Norway, nor do we go trough the American history in that much detail so I should have known I was way off track! I just wanted to play along I guess 🙂

        And it was behindthename.com who said Roanoke Island was New England, so I guess maybe they need a history lesson as well?
        It’s all in their ‘Virginia’ entry which is where I remembered it from.. I’ve fallen in love with Virginia recently…

        Happy Thanksgiving anyway! Hopefully I just gave people something to laugh about 🙂

        1. Wow, you’re in Norway!? I’ve always wanted to visit.

          And I live in the Washington DC area, meaning that Virginia is about thirty minutes away on the Metro – it could be even closer, technically, if I were driving. (We’re in Maryland.) Somehow, that makes it seem awkward for a girl’s name – and yet, I’d still use Mary …

          1. A friend of mine here in VA just gave her infant daughter Virginia as a middle name to commemorate her family’s time in VA. They’re a military family, so they move all over the place. Be happy her other daughter’s middle name wasn’t Nevada. 😉