Names are the leaves on the family tree

family tree diagram

As I slowly compile the lineage of Jeffrey Ferris in America, I am struck by the names of the people I record. Some are biblical, some unusual and some quite ordinary. Ferrises name their children after relatives, famous people and some just seem to pick a name for no reason at all.

I now have 930 families with 2,787 names. Some of the records are incomplete, with unknown first names. Some may have misspellings while others could be mistakes made reading a difficult cursive generations ago. One thing I can say for certain, of the 2,789 people in the database, there is only one Jeffrey.

That is a curiosity. The names of his children, Joseph, John, Peter, James and Mary, are repeated over and over in the generations that followed his arrival in the New World. None of his children chose to name a child Jeffrey that I can determine. None of his descendents. That strikes me as very odd.

One of the most common patterns is the use of the mother’s maiden name as a middle name for sons. Abram Decker Ferris (1819-1894) carries his mother Zeruah’s maiden name. Nathan Olmstead Ferris (1801-1850) carries that of his mother, Sarah Maria Olmstead.

Some of the men have first names derived in a similar manner. Two Ferris men are named Lockwood, a salute to that family’s place in the Ferris tree.

Then there are the poor bastards born to Hiram and Nancy Ferris. Hiram named all his sons something that began with Ed, until his last son was named Edenough R. Ferris (1855-1938). His chose to go by his middle name, Richard, as did other of his siblings.

Famous Americans are not forgotten in the Ferris family tree. There are several men named George Washington Ferris. Benjamin Franklin makes a few appearances. I have only found one Abraham Lincoln Ferris (1867- ) and one Andrew Jackson Ferris (1818-1890).

George Clinton Ferris (1820- ) appears to have been named to honor the New York governor and U.S. vice-president of the same name, as may have been Issac Clinton Ferris (1819-1901). Both men could have honored NY governor, Dewitt Clinton, who is associated with the building of the Erie Canal.

Names which appear to have been picked from the Bible include: Absalom, Ahasureus, Benajab, Eliphalet and the more common Israel. Daughters also received an uncommon first name or two: Almira, Augusta, Azubah, Calista, several Cordelias, Daisy, Delilah, Diadamia, Euphrasia and Jerusha.

A few other unusual names appear in the family tree. Mindwell Ferris (1710-1755) defies explanation. An import to the tree, Experience Crissey (1710- ) married Samuel Ferris (1696-1736). My guess is that she might have gone by her middle name, Susanne. Along with Charity, and Grace, there is Patience and Prudence. No Angels but several Angelines. John Ferris (1763-1840) picked a different sort of wife, one Freelove Addison (1781-1856).

There is a great deal more work to do. I hope to compile a total for each of the common names at some point. I am also hoping to correct any misspelling in the records and thus improve the accuracy of the entire tree.