Choose Your Ancestor? . . .
No, we can't choose our ancestors. They are inherited along with eye color, hair color, height and facial features, and we are stuck with them, whether desirable or not. Similarly, our names are chosen by our parents, and in some cases we wonder if they were entirely sane at the time.
Biblical names have long been popular and many babies still acquire them, desirable or not. Some Biblical characters we'd rather not be named after, such as Judas or Jezebel. And then there's Herodias, the daughter of King Herod. When she danced for him and his guests, the king promised her anything she wanted. Her mother persuaded her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
The girl was obedient, but hardly someone you would want your child to emulate. One of my ninth great grandmothers, poor Herodias Long, often called Horod or Harwood, was stuck with that name when she was born in England in 1624.
She may not have liked her name, but she did her best to live up to it. When she was only 14 years old, her first husband John Hicks, brought her from England to Newport, Rhode Island. Shortly, he was taken to court for beating her, and soon took off for New Amsterdam with their two children. She obtained a divorce from him in December, 1643 and entered into a common law marriage with George Gardner.
When she petitioned for a divorce from Gardner in 1664, she stated she had little choice but to live with him after Hicks left as she had no source of income. She and Gardner had several children including Nicholas, Will, Henry, Benoni, George, and Dorcas Gardner— some became prominent citizens of Rhode Island.
About 1665, Herodias was married again to John Porter. Due to the loss of Newport records during the Revolution, it's difficult to verify incidents and dates, and there is no record of her life with Porter or any information as to when she died.
One of my eighth great grandmothers was also saddled with an ungainly name, Mahershallalhashbaz Gorton. This name, given in Isaiah 8:3 to the Biblical prophet's son conceived after the Lord commissioned him to warn Israel of their sin, means "quick to plunder, swift to the spoil." It is believed Mary, as she was later called, was the child born while her father was captured and imprisoned in Boston. Whether Samuel Gorton equated himself with the prophet is unclear, but he was a voice crying in the wilderness of his times.
Another woman's name, fortunately, fallen into disuse is Asenath, meaning "peril, misfortune." I have several Asenath Smith's in my family tree in the 1700's, none in my direct line. This name would seem to doom it's bearer to a life of misery, once she learned the meaning.
Family members also may influence a baby's naming. My mother was named Edna Elizabeth because her Aunt Edna promised to give the baby a piece of sterling silver each birthday if she was named for her. Her father hated the name Edna, and began calling her Betty before she was two years old. As a consequence, my mother received only two teaspoons but she bore the hated name for life.
My grandfather, Louis was killed by a drunk driver shortly before my birth. Subsequently, I was named Betty Lou. I always envied my sister, born two years later, and given the name, Barbara popular at that time.