Uxornecronyms: A Little-Known Naming Practice
Aaron Goodwin March 28, 2018
In his slim and excellent volume, The Name Is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist, NGS Fellow Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck coins the term uxornecronym: “the name of the first daughter born unto a second wife honoring the name of the first wife, who had died.” The word combines the Latin term uxor (wife), the Greek term necro (death), and the Greek term nym or onym (name or word).
Wait. What?! Is that really a thing? And could it possibly be useful in solving any genealogical problem?Only NGS members have access to full articles of NGS Monthly. Please log in or click here to learn more about joining the National Genealogical Society.
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I’ve seen this phenomenon several times and used it as a help in finding the names of first wives. Thank you for writing about it.
Here is a related story showing how I deduced the probable name of an unknown wife. John Webb (will probated 1736, Henrico Co., Va.) is shown to be a son-in-law of Theodorick and Elizabeth Carter. (Will of Elizabeth Carter, made 1747, probated 1751, Henrico Co., names her grandson Cuthbert Webb. Cuthbert is shown as the youngest child in John Webb’s will.) John Webb’s wife’s given name is unknown, has not been found in any document. She apparently died before 1736. Her son Cuthbert Webb’s oldest daughter is named Hannah (b. 1756, m. William Tooley, Bible record at NSDAR). Theodorick Carter’s mother was also named Hannah (wife of Giles Carter). Based on the estimated birthdates for the Webb children (c. 1714-c. 1733), Mrs. Webb was probably born c. 1690-95, making her likely the eldest daughter of Theodorick and Elizabeth Carter. Since none of her sisters is named Hannah, and Hannah is the name Theodorick should have used first, the unknown name is probably Hannah. That an eldest granddaughter is also named Hannah makes that conclusion virtually certain.
This is not uncommon flipped the other way round. I’ve run into this a few times in England. Example: In Southampton, Elizabeth Ashford and her second husband, Joseph Peirce, gave their son, Joseph Spurrier Peirce, his second name after her first husband, Richard Spurrier.
Have noticed when this happens with boys, the previous husband’s family may have been a bit higher in social standing or money or both.
The somewhat uncommon “Spurrier” name helped to fill in quite a few pieces of Joseph Spurrier Peirce’s ancestors and make connections between three families.
I have seen this in my Dutch research too. When talking about naming patterns in my lectures, I always tell the audience not only to look for (grand)parents but also for deceased spouses. It is a great help to find the link between first and second marriages. The term ‘uxornecronym’ is absolutely a new one to me.
I’ve seen this in several of my New England > New York > Michigan lines, honoring deceased spouses of both genders.