Could there really be an unusual Biblical girls’ name that starts with a J that hasn’t been used by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s mega-family?
Indeed there is! Thanks to Christina for suggesting Jerusha as Name of the Day.
Flip through your Old Testament to the Books of Kings, and you might just find yourself marveling at this interesting appellation. Jerusha was the wife of King Uzziah of Judah, daughter of Zadok and mother of Jotham. She’s a minor figure, but her name has enjoyed steady – if sparing – use.
The pronunciation is just what you’d expect: jeh ROO shah. Maybe it is the “oo” sound in the middle, but there’s something lively and spirited about this name. Most sites list her meaning as “possession,” but some translate it as “inheritance” or “married.” This might be one of those names where you need to overlook the translation in favor of the sound.
Jerusha boasts an intriguing history of use. Back in 1912, Jean Webster penned the novel Daddy Long-Legs and christened her heroine Jerusha Abbott. Her Jerusha was abandoned at an orphanage when just a babe, leaving the matron to pluck her last name from the phone book and her first name from a gravestone. Luck brings her an anonymous benefactor, and once she’s away at college, Jerusha goes by the nickname Judy.
The story has had a long run, adopted for stage and screen. Shirley Temple’s 1935 Curly Top was based on the tale – though Shirley’s character was called Elizabeth. Adaptations have even been made in Japan and, as recently as 2005, Korea.
The fictional character’s name might’ve come from a cemetery, but modern parents could spot Jerusha at the cinema. The creative filmmaker couple responsible for 2004’s surprise hit Napoleon Dynamite are Jared and Jerusha Hess, lending the name a quirky alterna-vibe.
Jerusha’s heyday was probably the nineteenth century or even a little earlier, when bearers of the name pop up in the historical record:
- 19th century army Brigadier General Henry Burbeck was the son of William and Jerusha Burbeck of Boston;
- Hyrum Smith, big brother to Mormon leader Joseph Smith, Jr., married Jerusha Barden. The name remains big in Mormon circles – Jerusha Hess is a Brigham Young alum;
- US Congressman John Reuben Drake of New York also married a Jerusha – and they named their daughter Delphine;
- Canadian merchant and politician Thomas Johnston married Jerusha Todd.
Earlier still, you might find Jerusha in a famous captivity narrative. Back in 1704, the settlement of Deerfield, Massachussetts was attacked by a party of French and Mohawks. Eunice Williams, the daughter of a local minister, was taken captive and eventually adopted by a group of Roman Catholic Mohawks living near Quebec. Among the Williams family members who did not survive the massacre was a baby sister called Jerusha.
A scattering of Jerushas appear in US Census records, along with a handful of women named Jerushah. In 1882, the name even ranked in the US Top 1000, at #968 – but never appeared again.
Overall, Jerusha is quite rare, and yet nicely wearable circa 2009. She’d fit right in with Hannah and Elijah, Isaac and Abigail.