Baby Name Story: Return

In 1708, a baby boy named Return was born in Guilford, CT.

His parents were Janna Meigs* (1672-1739) and Hannah Willard (1674-1749), and he was the fifth of ten children: Janna, Josiah, Jehiel, Hannah, Return, Hester, Silence and Submit (twin girls), Timothy and Eunice.

There’s a story behind Return’s name. That much I know. But so many different versions of the story exist that there’s no telling which one is true.

The most common version starts with Janna proposing marriage to Hannah. She rejects him. (Many sources say this happened repeatedly.) Just as he’s about to ride off, she changes her mind and calls after him, “Return, Janna, return!” He does. They wed. And when they welcome their fifth child, they name him Return in honor of that moment.

Other versions of the story are quite different. One patriotic attempt claims the baby was born during the Battle of Concord (1775), and that “Return, Janna, return” was Hannah’s cry for her husband to come home from battle. Too bad the baby was already 67 years old at that point.

The name has since been handed down to more than a dozen of Return’s descendants, including Return’s son Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr. (1740-1823) and grandson Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr. (1764-1825).

*Either Janna or Junna, depends on the source.


4 thoughts on “Baby Name Story: Return

  1. Wow, I love posts like this. Although it would be great to know the real story, myth and speculation can be more fun sometimes.

    I’m fascinated by Silence and Submit — I don’t think either name would go down very well these days! Were they rare names at the time, or did they just fall into the virtue names category?

  2. Interesting story, but what’s the story behind the twin girls’ names? Silence and Submit??

    Doesn’t it seem odd that, out of 10 children, three of them would have non-standard names, while the rest seem fairly reasonable for the time period? Was/Is this more common than I am aware of?

  3. Return, Silence and Submit weren’t incredibly common in the early 18th century, but they weren’t unheard of. Word-names like these had been around for generations thanks to the Puritans, so they were familiar enough. They certainly wouldn’t have shocked anyone.

    Some other examples of Puritan word-names: Amity, Charity, Comfort, Consider, Deliverance, Desire, Donation, Experience, Faithful, Fearing, Hope, Humility, Increase, Mercy, Obedience, Pardon, Patience, Peaceable, Preserved, Prudence, Reliance, Remember, Resolved, Supply, Temperance, Truth, Wealthy. Some (like Hope) are still in use; others (like Obedience) are long gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.