18th August 2021

My grandfather claimed he had a Great Aunt Bathsheba. My father thought this was a joke based on the fact that so many of his Victorian relatives had unlikely names. The family were Methodists and Baptists and when naming their children went to the Bible for names usually from the Old Testament. So there are Seth, Heber, Isaac, Abraham, Azuriah, Abednego (yes, honestly) and more.

For girls the choice was more limited. Hannahs, Sarahs, Marys aplenty, but can you place Zillah, Zilpah and Azubah?

How did you get your name? Were you named for someone in the family? For a film star? For royalty? In the Bible names often were chosen for meaning or because the parent was told by an angel. John the Baptist was called John and the neighbours asked why because John was not a family name. My ancestors must have given children these names out of respect for the biblical characters.

Calling someone by their name recognises them. In the Gospels Jesus often called people by name. We too are pleased when we are known by name. (I just wish I was better at remembering names.)

Going back to Bathsheba: When Michael preached on David and Bathsheba, I thought of my fictional ancestor. I checked and she was NOT fictional. She was Bathsheba Firth and married into the family in 1842.

If you are a Sarah or a Ruth and the reading is part of their stories, you can see in them qualities you might wish for. But after Michael’s sermons I wonder how my Great x 3 Aunt felt about her name when those stories were read!

Margaret Clements