Thanks to Sarah for suggesting her son’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Montgomery.
Montgomery: Surname Name
Ever heard of Gumarich?
Gumarich was a Germanic name, from guma – man – and ric – power, as in Richard and Frederick.
Montgommery was a Norman place name, meaning Gumarich’s mountain.
Roger de Montgomerie was one of William the Conqueror’s closest advisors, and was created the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury for his service.
So it’s fair to say that Montgomery has been a surname in England since around 1066 – choose your spelling. The 1st Earl of Shrewsbury was far from the last to wear the name.
Does the English Earl get credit for all of the American places named Montgomery?
Nope. That distinction goes to Richard Montgomery, an Irish-born Major General who fought for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He’s the inspiration behind the city in Alabama, as well as a dozen counties and a smattering of smaller places, too.
Of course, the Alabama city has all sorts of other meanings today. It’s the place where Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a city bus led to the boycott that become a pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle. The Civil Rights Memorial stands downtown. And the historic 1965 Selma Civil Rights marches ended in Montgomery.
It makes this a surname, but also a place name rich with significance.
Here’s another association for the name: a leading man of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Montgomery Clift.
Born Edward Montgomery Clift and known as Monty, he had major roles in movies like From Here to Eternity, The Misfits, and A Place in the Sun. He racked up four Academy Award nominations, including one for his work in Judgment at Nuremberg.
Clift’s name is a story. His mother was adopted as a baby, or so said Edward Montgomery, the doctor who delivered her. The good doctor also told her that her parents were from a prominent Southern family. If true, Clift was descended from Montgomery Blair, a member of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, as well as other Washington notables. Clift’s mother named Monty after the doctor.
Then there’s the former department store, founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872.
Ward hit on the idea of mailing a catalog – at first, just a list – to rural areas, and allowing residents to order goods delivered by train. Ward faced opposition from rural retailers, and lost his first inventory in the Great Chicago Fire. But he ultimately proved successful, paving the way for fellow catalog giant Sears, and becoming a household name. In the 1920s, Montgomery Ward became better known for its stores – though they’re no longer in business.
Montgomery: Given Name
An actor, a store, a revolutionary war general – does any of this translate to a child’s name?
Montgomery has a long history of steady use. In 2013, 82 boys and 19 girls were given the name. Back in 2000, those numbers were 78 boys and 13 girls, and in 1990, 36 boys.
All of this makes Montgomery an on-trend surname name that isn’t trendy. It has the same feel as Lincoln or Kennedy, Harrison or Wesley, but it remains under the radar.
If you’re after a distinguished choice for a son, Montgomery might be one to consider.