Rare Names of the French West Indies

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This month, mascarenhas974 shared a nice post in response to the January « geneathemes »: the first name from nowhere [généathème du mois de janvier : le prénom sorti de nulle part]. I really invite you to read his French post to discover, it is not invented, the citizen Gunshoot [Coup de Fusil]. Today, I am also talking about first names and more particularly original or rare names. I’ve come across a lot of names in my research! I studied the most recurrent ones in the Free People od Color: Jean, Joseph, Pierre, Marie, Louise, Rose… But there are all the others, all those names that interrupt you in the search, that make you frown, open your eyes, draw a smile or burst out of the frank laughter of the incredulous.

Surprisingly, there are those rare names that we meet for the first time, those little or even completely unusual today, those surprising names lost between several other ordinary names. They sometimes refer to a great historical figure or a mythical past and very often to the religious universe of Christians.

« Gunshot. » I don’t remember that my genealogy has such an original first name in it; nevertheless, there are some uncommon first names, although perhaps for some over-represented among the emancipated or their descendants: Appolina, Zélie, Philomène, Marie-Donatine, HyppoliteDémosthène, Eléazar, Athanasie, Jean-Euphrosin, Renée Aveline … and then there is François de Sales!

I love the sound of Eléazar,[who has God’s support]. But I must confess that I was more surprised when I found myself face to face with his brother, François de Sales, because if François is a first name often worn, it is much more rare to be given the complete surname of this saint and theologian of the 16th century, who is also a first and only first name. My great-great-grandfather, born in 1887 and died in 1979, was called François de Sales Laurencine. In the birth certificate of my great-grandmother, his daughter, he is referred to as François de Sales, nicknamed Passionis. It is for the moment the first name that surprised me most in my genealogy.


I think it would be nice not to confine myself to my family history alone, so I propose here a list of the names that I encountered in the sources of Martinique or Santo Domingo from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. The information in brackets are those proposed by Wikipedia* or by the basis of the given names mentioned in the genealogies registered on Geneanet**. In this last one, you can test first names and obtain the evolution of the frequency of the first name, from 1600 to our days.

The given names presented below rarely exceed 0.01% representation in the database, some are not even listed. In his fascinating French book Prendre nom aux Antilles, historian Vincent Cousseau explains that « among the free, Christian influence is expressed through many names with an ancient resonance suggested by the lives of saints ». This phenomenon is widely found in the names that caught my attention.

  • Albéric, (Saint Albéric, solitary in the diocese of Sarsinè, Italy)**
  • Alexandre-Nisus, (Nisus characters of Roman mythology)*
  • Amable, (priest in Riom, fifth century)**
  • Anselme, (Archbishop of Cantorbery)**
  • Antoine-Spire, (Exuperius, first Bishop of Bayeux, in the fifth century)**
  • Aphrodise, (Aphrodisius 9 first bishop of Bésiers)**
  • Athalante-Claudine, ( daughter of Schénée King of Sciros)*
  • Audron,
  • Bezian-Arnoux,
  • Bibianne,
  • Cadville,
  • Catherine-Cole-Taylor,
  • Césarée,
  • Césarine,
  • Charlotte-Théonie,
  • Cornélie, (Cornelia, martyrdom in Africa)**
  • Elisabeth-Rossoline,
  • Elisabeth-Zéliette,
  • Emard,
  • Eudoxie, (Eudoxia, martyrdom in Helipofîs, Syria)***
  • Fitz Randolphe, (1)
  • Florimonde,
  • François-Ferréol, (Ferreolus, commander in the Roman army, martyr in Vienne, Dauphiné)**
  • Gabrielle-Maquette-Antoinette-Nicolaine,
  • Gratien, (Gratianus, martyr near Chartres)**
  • Jean-François-Cyriaque (yriaca, virgin and martyr in Nicomedia)**
  • Jeanne-Françoise-Athénaïs,
  • Jean-Népomucène, (Catholic priest and martyr)*
  • Jean-Tirfort,
  • Lucia-Nicolasa,
  • Marguerite-Elisabeth-Merotte,
  • Marie Filotée,
  • Marie Ventrude,
  • Marie-Adelaïde-Restitude, (Restitude of Africa, holy, Christian arrested under the reign of Diocletian)*
  • Marie-Marguerite-Chrisitine-Pulchérie, (Pulcheria[Beauty in latin], Empress of the East)**
  • Pantaléon, (all merciful, in Greek, doctor, martyr in Nicoraédie)**
  • Scolastine, perhaps a derivative of Scholastica, a feminine first name that is very rare too
  • Sigismonde,( possibly a reference to Cervante’s novel Les Travaux de Persille et Sigismonde)*.
  • Sophie-Léocadie, (Leocadia, virgin and martyr in Toledo, fourth century)**
  • Souveraine,
  • Tiburce,(Tiburtius, martyr in Rome, with his brother Valerian, third century)**
  • Timoléon,  (Timoleon, deacon, martyr in Mauritania)**
  • Ulyssethe main character of Homer’s Odyssey
  • Zénaïde, (Zenaize-Sister of St. Paul, who died in Cilicia in the first century)**,I knew one for real!

I also remember being marked by these names given in the same family in Santo Domingo in the 19th century.

  • Béat-Baptiste-Louis, (Beatus [Blessed, in Latin], confessor at Vendôme in the fifth century)**
  • Fleurus-Gustave-Théodore,
  • Otto-Emile-Alcibiade,
  • Sophie-Salomé,

And finally, I wanted to talk about this woman, a mother named after her son’s marriage in 1783. Of course, it has a very common name: Anne. But when I read his last name, I laugh and cannot help but think that his family had a certain sense of humour. It’s Anne Naudin… Wich exactly sounds like the French word anondin meaning innocuous.


Did you come across any « out of nowhere » names in your research? Which ones did you score the most?

(1) Fitz means son, but in England for example it applies particularly to natural sons. So I had thought of the « bastard » FitzChivalry, hero of Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy, when I crossed this name.

COUSSEAU Vincent, Prendre nom aux Antilles, éditions CTHS, 2012.
This is the published version of his thesis and I particularly recommend the 3rd chapter le nom., expression des appartenances.

Iconography of ANOM
Table décennale du Lamentin 1834 p. 4.
Mariage du fils d’Anne Naudin 1783 p. 33.

Updated: 12/26/2019
Mascarenhas974 has since closed his blog, the dead link to his site has been removed.

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