Washington Lafayette

The following page is from volume 2 of the town records of Newmarket, N.H., page 427.  (You can view the context here on FamilySearch.org.)

At the top of the page, we see a family register typical of the period, listing the parents’ (Arthur Branscomb and Sarah Chapman) first, with their dates of birth and marriage, and then listing their children.

By examining the handwriting and ink, we would suspect that all the entries but the last one were recorded at the same time.  The handwriting and the ink appear to be the same.  But the last entry, for Washington Lafayette Weymouth, is in a different hand than the previous entries.  From this we can take, as a working theory, that the previous entries were recorded between 16 June 1822 and 15 October 1824, and the entry for Washington Lafayette was recorded sometime on or after 15 October 1824.  (Do you see why?)

“Washington Lafayette” is a curious name, combing the names of our first president and the French officer.  Whenever you see an odd name in your research, it is worth poking around to see if you can figure it out.  Maybe it is a family name?  Maybe a surname on the maternal or grand-maternal side of the family?  Maybe it was a friend, or even comrade-in-arms of the father?

In this case, we have a good reason to connect this name to the Marquis de Lafayette directly and the “Grand Tour” he made of America, in 1824-1825, to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution.   After arriving in NYC on August 15th, he toured New England, including a stop in Portsmouth, N.H., on September 1st, 1824, an occasion marked by a parade, speeches, more speeches and a festive ball.  Six weeks later, a baby was named “Washington Lafayette.”  A coincidence?  I think not.  It is not hard to imagine that one or more parents got caught up in the excitement of the event, perhaps even made the short trip to nearby Portsmouth to participate.

Other interesting name combinations I’ve seen include “Calvin Luther” (suggesting the parents were unlikely to be Roman Catholics), and “Virgil Homer” (suggesting the parents were fond of the ancient classics.)  What odd combinations have you come across?

Art credits:  Currier & Ives, lithograph, “The First meeting of Washington and Lafayette, Philadelphia, Aug. 3rd, 1777,” c. 1876.

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