Country singer Dolly Parton was born to parents Avie Lee and Robert Lee Parton in Tennessee 1946. She was the fourth of a dozen children: six boys and six girls. The names of all twelve, in order, are:
The Seven Sutherland Sisters of New York had 37 feet of hair between them. By the time they joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the mid-1880s, they were already celebrities. They were also growing rich thanks to the sale of their pricey “Seven Sutherland Sisters” hair grower tonic.
The names of the seven sisters? Sarah, Victoria, Isabella, Grace, Naomi, Dora, and Mary. Sarah had the shortest hair (3 feet) and Victoria had the longest (7 feet).
Sir Walter Raleigh, the English gentleman and New World explorer, didn’t have a whole bunch of kids — just three sons. But two of those three sons had rather unusual names:
Damerei, born in 1592
Walter, born in 1593
Carew, baptized in 1605
Walter’s name is easy enough to figure out…but where do “Carew” and “Damerei” come from?
Carew was a surname that could be found on both sides of the family tree, coincidentally — both in Walter Raleigh’s family and in the family of his wife, Elizabeth.
Damerei was based on the surname D’amerie, which was supposedly a surname in Walter Raleigh’s tree that connected him to Henry I. (This was according to a historian Raleigh had hired, probably for the very purpose of cooking up some noble/royal ancestry.)
Which of these three names do you like most?
Nicholls, Mark and Penry Williams. Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend. London: Continuum, 2011.
A reader got in touch recently to ask about several unusual names. One of them was “Vouletti,” which belonged to a daughter of Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875).
Isaac Singer is best remembered for his successful sewing machine manufacturing company, founded in 1851 and still going strong today. Also notable, though, is the fact that he had a total of 24 children with five different wives and mistresses.
With Maria Haley, he had two children:
William Adam (b. 1834)
Lillian C. (b. 1837)
With Mary Ann Sponsler, he had ten children:
Isaac Augustus (b. 1837)
Vouletti Theresa (b. 1840)
Fanny Elizabeth (b. 1841)
John Albert (b. circa 1843)
Jasper Hamet (b. 1846)
Julia Ann (b. circa 1847)
Mary Olivia (b. 1848)
Charles Alexander (1850-1852)
Caroline Virginia (b. 1857)
…plus one more
With Mary McGonigal, he had five children:
Charles Alexander (b. 1859)
With Mary E. Walters, he had one child:
Alice Eastwood (b. 1852)
With Isabella Eugenie Boyer (of France), he had six children:
Adam Mortimer (b. 1863)
Winnaretta Eugenie (b. 1865)
Washington Merritt Grant (b. 1866)
Paris Eugene (b. 1867) – Palm Beach developer, namesake of Singer Island
Isabelle Blanche (b. 1869)
Franklin Morse (b. 1870)
These are traditional names for the most part, which makes “Vouletti” all the more intriguing.
Vouletti Singer was born in 1840, married William Proctor in 1862, had three children, and died in 1913. Though her name was definitely spelled Vouletti — that’s the spelling passed down to various descendants, and the one used by her friend Mercedes de Acosta in the poem “To Vouletti” — I found it misspelled a lot: “Voulitti” on the 1855 New York State Census, “Voulettie” on the 1900 U.S. Census, “Voulettie” again in a Saturday Evening Post article from 1951.
So…where does it come from?
I have no clue. I can’t find a single person with the given name Vouletti who predates Vouletti Singer. I also can’t find anyone with the surname Vouletti. (There was a vaudevillian with the stage name “Eva Vouletti,” but she doesn’t pop up until the early 1900s.)
Theater could be a possibility, as Isaac Singer was an actor in his younger days. Perhaps Vouletti was a character name he was familiar with?
My only other idea is the Italian word violetti, which means “violet.” Her parents might have coined the name with this word in mind.
Do you have any thoughts/theories about the unusual name Vouletti?