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Name Derivations

In Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says:

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;


The names that people have are interesting. Sometimes they can help the genealogist to locate information about a person, and other times they can make it difficult. For example, a name like John Todd can be hard to trace because there were so many people with that name. Unusual names can also cause confusion because they may be spelled many different ways by those who maintained records about a person. Since a majority of the early settlers in the United States were from the British Isles, there was a tendency for immigrants either to have their names Anglicized or for the immigrants themselves to Anglicize their names. My example of this is the surname of my Schwartz ancestors whose name has been found with such spellings as Shwartz, Swarts, and Swartz.

Beyond this, there is the selection of names for children. Sometimes there are interesting stories behind these choices. For example, one mother chose to name her children with names that began with The, such as Theretta, Theora, and Therrel. When one daughter was born, the mother found herself at a loss for another female name that began with The until a friend noticed a box containing thermos bottles in a local store. The new daughter became Therma.

Following are a few of the names found in this genealogy and the stories about their origin.


The surname Charters is the Anglicized form of Charteris. The origin of Charteris is (Anglo-French-Latin-Celtic) Belonging to Chartres (France), the Mero-vingian Carnotas, the tribal name Carnutes of Caesar. To read more about the early Charteris in Scotland, click here.

: Surnames of the United Kingdom, A Concise Etymological Dictionary; Henry Harrison; Vol.1 & 2.; The Eaton Press, 190 Ebury Street, London, S.W; 1912.

"Charters: A French toponymic (place name: Chartres) mainly of Huguenot origin in Ireland since the 14th century. It became established in County Cork in the seventeenth century but in modern times has been found chiefly in Ulster."

: The Surnames of Ireland, Irish Academic Press, 44 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4, Ireland; Reprinted: 2001, p. 42

Douglas Gender: Masculine; Usage: Scottish, English; Pronounced: DUG-lus

Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Dubhghlas, which meant "dark river" or "blood river" from Gaelic dubh "dark" and glais "water, river". Douglas was originally a river name, the site of a particularly bloody battle, which then became a Scottish surname. The surname belonged to a powerful line of Scottish earls.
Elliott, Ellot Supposed to signify the son of Elias; Heliat, Welsh and Cor. Br., a huntsman, a pursuer.

O Ceallaigh, descendant of Ceallaigh "The derivation of Kelly is uncertain; the most probable suggestion is that it is from ceallach strife). The most important and numerous sept of this name is that of the Ui Maine... Kelly is the second most numerous name in Ireland. In 1890 less than 1% if them had the prefix O but this has since been to some extent resumed.

Source: The Surnames of Ireland, Irish Academic Press, 44 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4, Ireland; Reprinted: 2001, p. 175

Schiferli, Schiferlli,
Schifferly, Shifferly

"The meaning of the surname Schifferli has come to us over the years in several translations. Dr. Rudolf Ramseyer of Switzerland provided the following information:

A Schiffer is a boatman. In olden times a lot of goods were transported by barges on rivers. Shifferli is a German diminutive, meaning little. Sometimes the son of a man named Schiffer was named Schifferli, 'the little of the family, the son' in order to distinguish him from his father."

(Source: Fisher, Clerice. "The Hauenstein and Schifferly Families of Ohio")

The family of Jacob and Barbara Schiferli emigrated from Switzerland in 1833. His son, Johannes Jacob Schiferli, who had been born in Switzerland, changed his name to Jacob J. Schifferly, the name recorded on his headstone. Some members of the fourth generation of the family further simplified by dropping the letter C and making the name Shifferly. Others retained the letter C to the present day.

William Elwell Todd and James Edgar Todd William's first name came from his grandfather while James' first name came from his great-uncle; but the interesting story is their middle names, Elwell and Edgar, as the middle names of both men were taken from the doctor who delivered them: Dr. Elwell and Dr. Edgar.
Albright Moody Shifferly

Bright's middle name came from the evangelist, Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899).

Meredith Lucille Shifferly Meredith was named after the famous novelist George Meredith (1828-1909).
William Edwin Watkins "William" was a frequently used Watkins given name; in this case it was the name of both his paternal grandfather and great-grandfather, but he never used this name. "Edwin" was chosen by his mother in memory of her youngest brother, Edwin Wyburn, who died when only a few months old and who, in turn, was named for his uncle, Edwin Wyburn. William Edwin Watkins was usually known as "Eddy" or "Ed," and he signed his name "W. Edwin Watkins."

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