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'John and Jone': A Survey of Christian Names

What were the most popular names for babies in Elizabethan Hungerford? It was decided to find the answer to this interesting question by looking at Hungerford's Baptismal Register in the 1560's. During the decade, there were 230 entries of baptisms, 103 girls and 127 boys. Between them they received fifty-three different names, with slight variations in spelling.

Almost all the baptismal names are found in use today, although there were a few unusual names such as Griffin. Gaberill (Gabriel?). Clement and Meliar (?Amelia). Otherwise, the majority of the names used in the late 16th century are just as popular now.

John was easily the most favoured name for boys during the period, with twice as many Johns as Thomas, the next most popular name. Jone or Joan was definitely the favourite name for girls and probably remained so for some time as this was a name commonly used by Shakespeare in his plays. Shakespeare's own Christian name William was not uncommon and one child was named plain Will. There were only 5 Janes and not one James.

There were a few intruiging names, for example Alee, which was initially thought to be 'Alice' with the 'i' missed out. But Alee occurs 7 times - so was perhaps a name in its own right, or just the way it was pronounced in Berkshire. Names such as Charity and Faith had not yet become fashionable, but one child was christened Good, in the hope that she would grow up to reflect her name in her character perhaps?

In the 20th century different names seem to be popular during different decades, with names going in and out of fashion every few years or so. It was interesting to note that, in studying the Christian names in the Baptismal Register, they were in general the same as those in the Burials Register for the same period. Even allowing for the fact that some of the burials were those of children, it does seem that in the Elizabethan period the same names remained popular for a longer period than they do today. There were only a few exceptions; Mary had gained in popularity by the 1560's while Joane had been replaced by Jone, but this is a change of spelling only.

The most popular names were, for boys:

John (30), Thomas (11), Anthony (11), Richard (10), Henry (9) and William (7); and for girls:

Joan or Jone (18), Mary (15), Agnes (8), Margaret or Margret (8) and Alee (7).

(From Elizabethan Hungerford, Julie Shuttleworth et al, 1995)

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See also:

- Parish Registers