Devon: You sure are weird

I love 16th C English parish registers: You can find so many unusual things in them! (“Dennis the Irishemans bastard” still remains one of my favorite). The last couple of days I’ve been working through some from Devon. Devon is in a relatively unique situation in England, nameswise, with its proximity to Cornwall which managed to retain some distinctive names even to the end of the 16th C, despite the English influence. Quite often you can find an unusual name in either county which Withycombe will note as being of Cornish origin, or more common in Devon and Cornwall than in any other place. It’s where I’ve found pre-1600 examples of Melanie (in the form Mellany); forms of the Cornish saint’s name Meliora; Ruby (thus contradicting Withycombe’s claim that this is a modern invention); Rabige (haven’t a clue on this one!); the unusual Dewnes or Dunes which I might have thought was an error for Dennis were it not for the multiple instances in different parishes; and now, to cap it off: a very clearly female Paskow, which name I had previously thought was exclusively masculine. But it’s hard to go against hard evidence in the form of “Peter Hubert and Paskow his wife”. I’ve found feminine forms of Pask and Pascal in French, Spanish, and Italian before, but never in England!

I’ve only just touched upon the parish registers from Devon, so I’m sure I’ll find lots more in the future. Look for all these names, and more, in the Dictionary in September!

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