Acts of the Apostles…as a baby name

Here’s a story I’ve spotted a couple of times:

A couple of centuries ago, Thomas and Elizabeth Pegden of Kent, England, had four sons named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Then they had a fifth son. They were out of evangelists, so what did they name baby #5? Acts of the Apostles, after the next book in the New Testament.

Is it a true story?

Sort of.

A man named Actsapostles Pegden was indeed born in Kent back in 1795. (He went by the nickname “Actsy.” He married in 1826, and passed away in 1865.)

And his parents were named Thomas and Elizabeth Pegden.

And he did have at least four older brothers.

But the brothers I’ve found were named Thomas (b. 1787), Philip (b. 1789), Isaac (b. 1791) and Christopher (b. 1793) — not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

So how did he get his name?

I’m not sure.

The only two other people I’ve come across with this name — Acts of the Apostles Kennett (b. 1833), son of Richard and Phoebe Kennett, and Acts of the Apostles Tong (b. 1850), son of Henry and Mary Tong — were both born in Kent, just like Actsy. This makes me think the name has more to do with regional religious fervor than anything else.


  • A Curious Christian Name.” New York Times 16 Apr. 1899: 24.
  • Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London: Chatto & Windus, 1897.
  • “‘Acts-Apostles’ as a Name.” Notes and Queries 3 Mar. 1866: 175.

5 thoughts on “Acts of the Apostles…as a baby name

  1. this comment about thomas and elizabeth pegden(holness) is not true as far as i know. i believe two families have got mixed up, they did however have a son called acts apostles pegden,also henry,christopher,robert,josiah,thomas,thomasina,phebe,philip and a couple of others whom i cannot remember,they also used the surname tong. their great grandson was also called acts apostle tong. thomas was my 5 x great grandfather, i have no knowlege of a mathew,mark,luke or john.i grew up in that village of boughton. their son robert is my 4x great grandfather.

  2. only just noticed this,apparently yes they are related to my tong/pegden family through my 4 x ggrandmother esther tong nee dunkin,think that her niece esther married richard kennett as his 3rd wife.acts apostle kennett was by his 2nd wife phoebe weatherall.but they lived in close proximity in the same village. so some of these kennetts must be my cousins. richard kennets 1st wife was elizabeth page. they were mostly puritans right across the weald of kent and east sussex. many other branches of my family were puritans and some came from warbleton in east sussex where half the entire village was strictly puritan. my ancestor elizabeth golding came from there, think her father may have been the thomas burnt at the stake by bloody queen mary the catholic tyrant. i know the de sellyng/shellyng family now known as shilling of town place/house throwley kent whom she married into , who are my ancestors were strict puritans. so it appears most of my ancestors on my mothers side were puritans. so acts apostle kennett probaby got the name from actsy pegden, so his siblings are my cousins there were only about 3/400 residents in that entire area at the time and most are interelated,and looking at the kennetts ive noticed theyre related to other families as myself way back in 1800s. about this time there was a lot of unrest in the parish and some lunatic calling himself lord courtney and a messiah led the ”last uprising on english soil’in 1838 at the ”battle of bossenden woods” where about a dozen were killed,many were our cousins. so this this area was a hotbed of religious fervour and combined with the poor laws and cuts in agricultural wages it blew up eventually resulting in deaths and transportation to australia.

  3. A joke about Acts of the Apostles Kennett’s name, from a 1920 newspaper: “[I]t is not difficult to imagine the lad’s mother exclaiming in a moment of exasperation: “Actso, how can you act so?”” (Source)

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.