In honour of International Women's Day earlier this week I thought I'd have a look at five female names that I've found on my family tree. Tracing my family tree is something I've been doing off and on for the past few years - roughly as long as I've had this blog, I guess. As my interest in names grew keener so too did my curiosity in what names had previously been used in my own family (besides the couple of generations I already knew). It's a sometimes frustrating - but more often fascinating - activity which I highly recommend trying if you haven't already. Or if the family historian hasn't already beaten you to it.
So here are five of the most (I think) fascinating female names from my family tree. I'd love to hear what gems can be found on yours!
Rohese - 11th century France
I've heard people complain that Rose as a first is old fashioned, and Rose as a middle name is a filler. But this medieval version of Rose definitely can't be accused of either of those things these days. Also in my tree is Rohesia and Roesia, other versions of Rose. Any of these three is a good way to re-introduce some old-fashioned romantic charm to a name that has been a favourite for generations.
Hephzibah - 19th century England
What a mouthful this one is - and what a surprise to find it on my family tree. I always felt like it was the kind of name given to old crones and evil witches in fairy tales. But the meaning is so at odds with that image! This Ancient Hebrew name found in the Bible means "my delight is in her" - a beautiful sentiment to bestow on your beloved daughter.
This name was apparently passed down through my family in a few different forms - Hepzibah, Hepsibah and even the elaborate Hephzabahian, which was very distinctive in comparison to her siblings William, Mary, Johnathan, Harriet, Emma and George.
Aseda - 9th century Norway
Aseda is a bit of a mystery name - it's hard to find any information about it. Apparently this relative also went by Ascride/Ascrida, Aserida or Ásdís. The latter is the only one that can be found on the website Nordic Names, and it seems that it loosely means 'goddess'.
It's names like this that perfectly illustrate the ever changing nature of names. We may lament on the 'correct' spelling of names, but names and spellings have often been fluid, whether by design or due to mis-translations or mis-spelling.
Thurfrida - 11th century England
Alternatively spelled Torfrida, there is both a mother a daughter in my tree with the same name, and I wish I knew the names of the mother's parents to see how far back this name goes. It's hard to track down the meaning of this name though. This makes me tempted to say it might come from a combination of Thor or Tor (Old Norse for 'thunder') and Frida, which means 'beautiful' or 'beloved' in Old Norse, or 'peace' in Germanic. I like to think that 'beautiful thunder' is the intention, as it's such a romantic notion.
Godiva - 11th century England
Godiva was Thurfrida's mother in law. And if you're wondering - yes, apparently it is that Godiva. Godiva was the 17th Great Grandmother of the wife of my 12th Great Grandfather. It is reported to have been a fairly popular name at the time, and was a Latinised version of an Old English name meaning 'gift of God'.
While the tale of Lady Godiva riding naked through the streets to stop her husbands' oppressive taxes on his people can't be totally substantiated, it's a tale that it re-told and celebrated enough that this name will always be associated with naked horseback riding. Which unfortunately makes this name unusable for a modern child. But not a bad choice for your chocolates ☺