Baby name story: Burgess

On 5 Sept. 1902, Capt. A. H. Sorensen of the five-masted schooner Snow & Burgess and his wife Marie welcomed a baby girl while at sea. Their location at the time was 10°N 117°W — in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles west of Central America.

Sorensen named the baby girl Burgess, after the ship.

The schooner, built in Maine in 1878, had been named after the New York shipping firm Snow & Burgess (est. 1853), which in turn had been named after founders Ambrose Snow and Joseph S. Burgess. The surname Burgess, used in England and Scotland, means “freeman” (much like Charles) and refers to the social status of the original bearer.


  • Cogill, Burgess. When God Was an Atheist Sailor: Memories of a Childhood at Sea 1902-1910. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990.
  • Coman, Edwin T. Time, Tide and Timber: A Century of Pope & Talbot. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1949.
  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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