What made the name Napoleon popular in the Faroe Islands?

Nólsoyar Páll (1766-1808/9) on a Faroese 50 krónur banknote
Nólsoyar Páll (on a Faroese banknote)

Did you know that “Napoleon has been a common given name in the Faroe Islands since the 1800s”?

Neither did I, until I began researching Napoleon’s influence on names.

Apparently, it all has to do with Faroese national hero Nólsoyar Páll (“Paul from Nólsoy”).

Nólsoyar Páll — born as Poul Poulsen on the island of Nólsoy in 1766 — was a seaman/trader/farmer/poet who helped improve his country in various ways:

One of his most impressive achievements was his attempt to develop direct trade between the Faroe islands and the rest of Europe. To develop this trade, he bought and rebuilt a wrecked schooner. The ship was named Royndin Fríða (The Free Enterprise), and was the first seagoing ship built in the Faroe Islands and the first Faroese-owned vessel since the early Middle Ages.

Nólsoyar Páll had a strong admiration for Napoleon — who, at that time, was in the middle of trying to conquer Europe — and he wanted to name a son after the French leader.

His second child turned out to be a girl (his first child was also a girl), but that did not deter Nólsoyar Páll. He asked to name his daughter Napolonia, but the priest disapproved. Instead, she was named Apolonia after the Greek god Apollo.

Soon after, Nólsoyar Páll convinced his brother, Jákup Nolsøe, to name his son Napoleon. His brother agreed, calling him Napoleon Nolsøe. This is most probably the first Faroe Islander to be named Napoleon. Napoleon Nolsøe went on to become the first native certified doctor in the Faroe Islands.

Nólsoyar Páll’s nephew was born in 1809 — around the time Nólsoyar Páll himself was lost at sea.

I’m not sure how many Faroese Napoleons have been born since then, but my source noted that the Faroe Islands had 29 Napoleons and several Apolonias as of early 2018.

“Napoleon” didn’t pop up in the Faroe Islands baby name rankings for 2020, but if I look through the Faroese baby name data (2001-2020) for Napoleon and Apolonia specifically, I find…

  • Napoleon, b. 2002
  • Bárður Napoleon, b. 2004
  • Hanus Napoleon, b. 2006
  • William Napoleon, b. 2006
  • Sofus Napoleon, b. 2007
  • Ella Apollonia, b. 2008
  • Apolonia Ró, b. 2012
  • Napolion, b. 2013
  • Reimar Napoleon, b. 2019
  • Andrew Napoleon, b. 2020

It’s a short list, but the Faroe Islands only welcomes about 600-700 babies per year, so — proportionally speaking — these numbers are actually pretty impressive.

Sources: National hero inspired to name son after Napoleon Bonaparte, Nólsoyar Páll – Wikipedia, Statistics Faroe Islands, Births – Hagstove Foroya, FamilySearch.org

Juneteenth as a baby name?

Birth certificate of June Tenth (?) Anderson (1930-1999)
June Tenth (?) Anderson, b. 1930

A year ago today, Juneteenth (a contraction of “June 19th”) became a federal holiday.

The holiday marks the date (in 1865) that U.S. Army officer Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas. The order reinforced the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier, by asserting that “all slaves are free.”

This mattered because Texas still had about 250,000 slaves. Why? Because “the state never had the large Union army presence necessary to enforce the proclamation.”

Intriguingly, a baby born in nearby Harris County, Texas, in 1930 — long after the Civil War was over — may have been named “Juneteenth.”

I first discovered her a few years ago, while doing research for a post about unusual names in Harris County. She was born into an African-American family on June 26th — a week after Juneteenth — but “June tenth” is the name that appears to be written on her birth certificate (above).

In later records, on the other hand, she’s consistently listed as “Juneteena” or “June Teena.” I even found her mentioned in a 1980s cookbook:

This is one of my personal favorites, the peach pie-cobbler from June Teena Anderson, one of the Panhandle’s finest cooks.

She died in 1999, and on her gravestone her name is written “June T. Anderson.”

It’s impossible to know the original intentions of her parents (who were named Allen and Margie Anderson, btw). But it does seem plausible — given their cultural heritage, their location, and the baby’s birth date — that they had wanted to name her Juneteenth.

What are your thoughts on this?

Sources:

Baby name story: Frederica

Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815)
Battle of Waterloo

Peter McMullen of Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, was seriously wounded at the Battle of Waterloo while serving with the 27th Foot.

“Incredibly, his heavily pregnant wife Elizabeth was watching the battle nearby and, fearing her husband was dead, she rushed into the midst of bodies.” She found Peter still (barely) alive, and attempted to carry him off the active battlefield, despite her condition. As she did this, she was shot in the leg with a musket ball.

After the battle, both Peter and Elizabeth were taken to a hospital in Antwerp, where Peter lost both of his arms due to injuries.

They were then transported to a hospital in Chelsea. While recuperating at the English hospital, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl.

Prince Frederick — the Duke of York, and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army — heard about the couple, and visited them at the hospital. While there, he agreed to be the baby’s godfather. And so the newborn “was christened Frederica McMullen of Waterloo” in his honor.

Sources:

Babies named for the Battle of Waterloo

Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815)
Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo — which marked the final defeat of Napoleon and the end of the Napoleonic Wars — took place on June 18, 1815, near the village of Waterloo (located south of Brussels).

Fighting against Napoleon were two forces: a British-led coalition that included Germans, Belgians, and Dutch (all under the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley) and an army from Prussia (under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher).

Hundreds of babies were given the name “Waterloo” — typically as a middle — during the second half of the 1810s. Most of them were baby boys born in England, but some were girls, and some were born elsewhere in the British Empire (and beyond).

  • William Wellington Waterloo Humbley*, b. 1815, in England
  • Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon †, b. 1815, Belgium
  • John Waterloo Todd, b. 1815, England
  • Fredrick Waterloo Collins, b. 1815, Wales
  • Jubilee Waterloo Reeves (née Davis), b. 1815, England
  • Dent Waterloo Ditchburn, b. 1815, England
  • Joseph Waterloo Hart, b. 1815, England
  • Henry Waterloo Nickels, b. 1815, England
  • Sophia Waterloo Mills, b. 1815, England
  • Henry Waterloo Prescott, b. 1815, England
  • Richard Waterloo Renny, b. 1815, England
  • John Waterloo Posthumous Brittany, b. circa 1815, England
  • Charlotte Waterloo Grapes, b. circa 1815, England
  • Louisa Waterloo France, b. circa 1815, Belgium
  • James Waterloo Clark, b. 1816, England
  • Henry Waterloo Johnson, b. 1816, England
  • George Waterloo Holland, b. 1816, England
  • Charles Waterloo Wallett, b. 1816, England
  • John Waterloo Wilson, b. circa 1816, Belgium
  • Frederick Waterloo Jennings, b. 1817, England
  • William Waterloo Horford, b. 1817, England
  • George Mark Waterloo Smith, b. 1817, England
  • Edward Waterloo Lane, b. 1817, England
  • Robert Waterloo Cook, b. 1817, England
  • Eleanor Waterloo Whiteman, b. 1817, England
  • Ann Waterloo Barlow, b. 1818, England
  • Wellington Waterloo Teanby, b. circa 1818, England
  • William Wellington Waterloo Jackson, b. circa 1819, England

Interestingly, babies were still being named Waterloo long after the battle was over. Many more Waterloos were born from the 1820s onward:

The place-name Waterloo is made up of a pair of Middle Dutch words that, together, mean “watery meadow.” Since the battle, though, the word Waterloo has also been used to refer to “a decisive or final defeat or setback.” (It’s used this way in the 1974 Abba song “Waterloo” [vid], for instance.)

The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) followed the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-c.1802), which followed the French Revolution (1789-1799), which gave rise to a number of revolutionary baby names in France.

Sources:

*William Wellington Waterloo Humbley was born on the day of the battle (while his father, an army officer, was abroad taking part). He was baptized the following summer, and the Duke of Wellington himself stood godfather. Several years after that, in 1819, his parents welcomed daughter Vimiera Violetta Vittoria Humbley — named after the battles of Vimeiro (1808) and Vitoria (1813).

† Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon’s father, Thomas, had been wounded in the previous battle (Quatre Bras, on the 16th). Her mother, Martha — who was traveling with the army — searched the battlefield for him all night. Eventually she discovered that he’d been transported to Brussels, some 20 miles away, so she walked there with her three young children. (Through a 10-hour thunderstorm, no less.) She reached Brussels on the morning of the 18th, located her husband, and gave birth to Isabella on the 19th.

Baby born on D-Day, named Deeday

D-Day

A baby boy born in England on June 6, 1944, was named Deeday Rodney White — primarily because his father, Bert, kept hearing the term “D-Day” on the radio:

All his father reported hearing on the wireless the morning he was born was about the D-Day landings.

“He said to me all he could hear was ‘D-Day, D-Day, D-Day being drummed into my head’.”

Mr. White said initially the registrar refused to accept the name, saying the operation was top secret.

His father returned the next day with a copy of the Daily Mirror reporting the news of the D-Day landings on the French coast.

The name doesn’t have a hyphen on his birth certificate, but Mr. White prefers to write it “Dee-Day.”

And, even though he “hated” the name as a child, he became proud of it as an adult — so much so that he passed it down to his own son.

(Other D-Day babies include Dee Day, Invasia, and D-Day.)

Source: “D-Day: The baby named after the Normandy landings.” BBC News 5 Jun. 2019.