Famous Names?

By Eilene Lyon

A post by InNate James discussed his possible family connection to the notorious outlaw, Jesse James.  He mentioned that the James family tried to disassociate themselves from him. That was not a universal response to his deeds, though.

My family tree sports one “Jesse James Brooks,” for example.1 He was born in 1876, the year many of the James’ gang were killed by the citizens of Northfield, Minnesota, during a bank robbery, just one state away from my Jesse’s birthplace, South Dakota.2  His birth preceded the fateful robbery, though.

It got me thinking about all the children in history who have been saddled with the names of reknowned people (the good, the bad, and the mediocre – ugly may be in there, too). Probably no one could count the number of “George Washington so-and-sos” found throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries. I found one George Washington and five George Ws on my tree alone.

I suspect most of the unfortunate children burdened with these weighty monikers were boys. Some of them dealt with the matter by switching their first and middle names around, or by relying on nicknames. It isn’t proven that my 3rd great-uncle, Cleve Springer, was born “Grover Cleveland Springer,” but his WWI draft registration clearly states that his full name is “Cleveland Grover Springer.”3

My great-grandfather was named Sterling Price Davis. His father served in the Confederate Army from Missouri during the Civil War. Research revealed that Sterling was named for Sterling Price. Price was a Confederate general, later governor of Missouri, and happened to die just two months before great-grandpa was born.4,5

I’d never heard of him, but clearly Price was a hero to my great great-grandfather. How many southern boys, do you suppose, bore “Robert E. Lee” as their first and middle names?

Children today get named after prominent entertainers more often than they are named for politicians and criminals. Women have started making the grade, too. Beyoncé? Check. Madonna? Check.

How many “famous names” are lurking in YOUR family tree? Let me know!

 


  1. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. 
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_James 
  3. See #1 
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterling_Price 
  5. Idaho. Department of Health and Welfare. Death Index and Images, 1911–1966. Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Boise, Idaho. Idaho, Death Records, 1890-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. 

5 thoughts on “Famous Names?

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  1. Excellent question. I have a grandmother who might have been named for Anne Hutchinson, the spunky woman, a Puritan, who got thrown out of MA in the 1600s for her liberal Christian views. As a child I never knew if this was a guess based on this grandmother’s outspokenness or if it was a fact. There’s no one left to ask… so in answer to your question… maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting. I’ve heard of many families trying to trace to Jesse James! I don’t think there are any famous names in my family tree at all. They tended to replicate family names until the last 70 years, although even there my cousin’s son carries a name that has been in the family for many centuries from the Netherlands.

    Liked by 1 person

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