The Puritans – 17th Century Christian Names

Like many other religions, Christianity has had a large number of radical believers. Probably one of the most extreme has been the Puritans who, during the 16th and 17th centuries, strongly insisted that every aspect of society should be modelled by what was contained in the bible. This included the government, social lives and church practices within their communities. In Europe their insistence was met with opposition from the king and many church officials, which prompted a mass migration of Puritans to the newly colonised Americas in the 1600s.

shutterstock_402205267This group of Christians believed that they had to teach their children values, and sins, from the moment they were born. They did so by giving them names which reflected their beliefs which, in addition to being a lesson, also differentiated them from their non-Puritan neighbours.

The Barebones were a large family and their values were even more extreme than other Puritan groups, some of which believed that drinking alcohol and parading in the streets naked was acceptable Christian behaviour. The levels of their worship and their perceived superiority were shown in the names that they chose for their children which included:

  • Praise-God Barebone – A leather worker who also became a MP,
  • If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone – The son of Praise-God, he became a well-known economist and preferred to be called Nicholas Barbon.
  • Fear-God Barebone
  • Damned Barebone, and his brother Jesus-Christ-came-into-the-world-to-save

Unfortunately, this was not the only family that insisted on labelling their children with morbid names. The Sykes parents decided that they would predict the inevitable when naming their sons Die-well and Farewell. Neither boy was a disappointment, as they both fulfilled their prophesized destiny by leaving this earth.

shutterstock_237235966Other parents attempted to ensure that their child would not stray from their Christian values, even before they had the chance to do so. Kill-sin Pimple was one such boy, also bearing an unfortunately surname. One can just imagine this acne riddled teen running around with the burden of negating the sins of the rest of his community.

Giving birth is always a difficult experience and many women did not survive the ordeal in earlier centuries. Puritan children were never allowed to forget this as many of these babies were then called, Joy-in-sorrow, an unbelievably popular name.

The city of Warbleton, Sussex, had a large Puritan population and some of the names seen on censuses of the time include No-Merit Vynall and Sorry-for-Sin Coupard.

A woman was meant to be seen and not heard, in Puritan households, and their names reflected their place with Silence being one of the most common girls’ names of the era.

They also took the statement ‘like father like son’ literally and Humiliation Hynde named both his sons the same. It can only be assumed that they were referred to as Humiliation 1, 2 or 3 whenever going anywhere as a family.

Fortunately these names did not last very long, and the Puritan influence lived on in more pleasant ones such as Hope, Trinity, and Prudence.

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Wendy Saunders - Author

I am a romantic suspense author based in Hampshire in the UK

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