Colonial Baby Names

Along with their new way of life, colonists brought to the North American continent a new set of names, many of which that remain popular for baby naming to this day. There is not much variety on the lists of names of the first colonists. The names, however, are just as well-known today as they were back then.


The short and simple name, Anna, was a popular colonial period choice. This name was often paired with longer names either as a first name or a middle name. Anna Catherine, Anne Elizabeth and Rebecca Anna, for example, all appear on census records from colonial times.


The first name ever bestowed upon a child born of European decent on American soil was Virginia. A well-known historical figure with this name was Virginia Dare, who was born Aug. 18, 1587 in the ill-fated Roanoke colony.


The name John, which comes from a Hebrew word meaning “God is gracious,” was a popular colonial name choice. Along with being the name of famous colonist John Smith, this name was common among many who traveled to and were born in the New World. The prevalence of this name is no surprise, as many of the colonists who originally populated America were devoutly religious and fleeing religious persecution.


Susanna is a Hebrew name with ecological ties. It comes from a word meaning “lily” or “rose.” This name was hugely popular in several listings of colonists. In many cases, it was passed down in families.


As many of the first expeditions to the United States were funded with Spanish money, it is perhaps no surprise that Maria was a common colonial name. This name is the Spanish version of Mary.


Just as John was a popular boy name selection, the female version of this name, Jane, was a popular choice for girls. This name, like John, means “God is gracious,” making it an obvious choice for individuals who value religion highly.


Elizabeth was a popular girls’ name during colonial times. This name means “God is my vow,” tying it to religious devotion and service to God.



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