Personal Names of Indians of New Jersey

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In the following pages about six hundred and fifty personal names are given, not counting repetitions. These are practically all additions to the vocabularies above mentioned, and so form a very material extension of our knowledge of the Lenni-Lenape language.

Moreover, Indian personal names were usually combinations of nominal, pronominal and adjectival themes, so that this list is calculated to throw much light on the habits of thought, the mental characteristics, the structure of their language and the environments of the aborigines.

The student of the origin of language will be interested to notice that certain sounds are almost never used in beginning personal names.

The frequency of the letters of the English alphabet in beginning the names hereinafter given appears by the following table. The third column shows the frequency of the several letters, taken from a list of 15,800 names of white inhabitants of New Jersey, 1670-1730. Dividing this number by 26 we have 600 such persons, the same number as of the aborigines named. The comparison is therefore based on an equal number of names of Indians and whites, and approximately the same period.

State Listings of Vital Records

Statistics Concerning the Personal Names of Indians of New Jersey

Indian Name Times In Names of Whites
M 113 37
W 77 45
P 60 29
S 56 60
T 51 21
N 51 8
A 39 17
C (hard k) 34 34
K 29 10
C (soft k) 1 1-6
CI 4 5
H 20 52
O 20 6
Q 20 1-2
E 17 13
R 13 20
L 9 30
I and J (Y) 8 1-6
I (short) 1 3
J 3 14
G 5 23
B 3 40
Y 3 1
F 1 20
V 1 13
D none 23
U none 1-3
Z none 1

This comparative table is given for what it is worth. It is perhaps more curious than valuable.

Further examining the Indian names, we find that the letters b, f and r occur but 21 times in the entire list; L 71 times, r 150 times.

Taking c as equivalent to L and C hard as equivalent to k; k and g and gi, ki, ise, cis; e for i y and j (y); p for b and the normal letters are referenced as follows;

M 113
K 83
W 77
P 67
S 56
T 51
N 51
A 39
E 29
H 21
O 20
R 13
L 9
F 1
V 1

As f occurs but once, and v only four times, it is probable that they have been incorrectly given, and they may be properly omitted. The sound indicated by w would be as well shown by ou. Thus the initial letters would be reduced to 12.

The preponderance of m is perhaps due to the prefix m, indicating a general designation, as opposed to one in particular; m, n and w suggest pronominal prefixes. But most of the names are evidently descriptive.

As for the pronunciation: names appearing in deeds prior to 1664 were written by the Dutch, except some on the Delaware river, which were written by Swedes. After 1664 deeds for lands north of New ark were usually drawn up by Dutch scriveners, and many in Mon-mouth and Somerset counties; but most of them were written by Englishmen.

It is evident that many, if not most, of these scriveners had little or no knowledge of the native language ; also, that they lacked the “Indian ear,” as Heckewelder calls it, and so were unable to apprehend the precise sounds of the spoken words. In the same deed the Indian names are usually spelled differently four or five times. Some of these variations have been given, that the reader may be better able to judge approximately what was the actual or probable pronunciation. As greater care is usually given to the signatures in an instrument, so it doubtless was with these Indian deeds, that the scriveners probably were more particular to have the names accurately written at the end. Hence, in the following list, special men tion is frequently made of the forms of the names as “signed.” Of course, the Indians themselves merely made their marks, often a tribal or gentile symbol, and the names attached to these marks were written by the persons who drafted the deeds.

About 250 of the names herewith given are compiled from the New Jersey Archives, Vol. XXI Calendar of Records in the Office of the Secretary of State, at Trenton, 1665-1703. The figure following these names refers to the page of that volume where they may be found. More than half of the list has been gleaned by the writer from the records in the office referred to, having been omitted or overlooked by the compiler of the Calendar mentioned. Others have been gathered from all available printed sources, as well as from various original documents.

With very few exceptions no attempt has been made to interpret these names. This list was compiled with no such object, but rather to place it within the reach of expert students of the Algonquin language.

The origin and effect of Indian deeds for lands in New Jersey are explained in my “Indians of New Jersey.” It may be noted, however, that because an Indian squaw or child joins in a deed it does not follow that the aborigines recognized the woman s right of dower, or the child s right of inheritance in lands. The simple fact was that the white purchaser acted on his own knowledge of the English law, and wished to be sure of acquiring the whole of the Indian title. For the same reason, probably, he was in the habit of getting all the Indians of a neighborhood, as tenants in common, to join in the deed for an extensive tract of land, or at least to have them sign as witnesses, so that on sober second thought they might not claim that they had had no knowledge of the execution of the deed.

Something like half of these names were published by the writer in the American Anthropologist for January, 1902. The interest manifested in that publication has led him to extend the list to its present proportions. It is believed that no such list of aboriginal personal names, principally of the seventeenth century, has ever been published before. That it may be helpful to the student of American anthropology, and especially of the language of the Lenni-Lenape, is the hope of the writer.



MLA Source Citation:

Personal Names Of Indians Of New Jersey, By William Nelson, 1904, The Paterson History Club, Paterson, N. J. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 28 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/personal-names-of-indians-of-new-jersey.htm - Last updated on Nov 13th, 2013


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