Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fun with names: Whitehead Raynor

I promise this will be the last in the name series for a while. For a little bit, anyway... :)

So, my fifth great-grandfather's name was Whitehead Raynor and his is a name that has always intrigued me. As a kid and then as a teenager, the name "Whitehead" obviously conjures some unpleasant skin-related images and you wonder just what in the heck Whitehead's parents were thinking. Whitehead is not one of those old-fashioned names that randomly pop up or become popular again. And probably with good reason.

As it turns out, though, as I was scrolling through all the baptismal records and marriage records that were transcribed from St. George's Episcopal Church in Hempstead, New York from the 1700s and 1800s, Whitehead is a name that appears - well, to say frequently might be an overstatement, but let's just say that there were enough of them that in school, my Whitehead might have to have been known as Whitehead R. to distinguish him from the others. It turns out that Whitehead, like Raynor and Smith and Bedell and Pearsall, is a Hempstead family name. Unfortunately, if I can't connect my tree to a family, I usually don't pay that much attention to it - family history tunnel vision? But yes, Daniel Whitehead in fact was one of the original 50 proprietors of Hempstead in the 1640s.

So what does that mean for Whitehead Raynor? In Hempstead, as in other places, unusual first names turn up that turn out to be a surname from the same area - a mother or a grandmother's maiden name in many cases. But as I mentioned above, I don't have any Whiteheads in my family. Or do I? There are branches on my tree, maternal lines, that I can't trace. The mother is a dead end. Is it possible that along one of these lines I have a connection to the Whitehead family? Or maybe Whitehead's parents wanted to honor a friend who was a Whitehead or a Whitehead who married into the family through a sibling or a cousin - is that a naming practice that might have occurred? These are the questions I ask myself when I go back over these lines.

And then I guess it's entirely possible that Whitehead's parents just thought it was a cool or hip name in which case all I can do is hang and shake my head and add it to my list of things to ask my ancestors, when I die, "What in the heck were you thinking?"

;)

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