08 February 2018

Help! My Ancestors Have Turned Green

Week 6 — Favorite Name

Help! My Ancestors Have Turned Green

by Myra Vanderpool Gormley © 2018

At first I thought it was just one of those naming fads our families went through. You know, where all the girls are named for flowers or jewels. I always think of my Grandaunts — Lily and Pearl — who weren’t my grandaunts at all, but rather cousins, but in my childhood, everyone over 20 or so was called “aunt” or “uncle” if they were even distantly related. And if they were “old” (like 40+) you tacked on the “grand” in front of aunt or uncle to show your respect.

However, a particular given name keeps popping up in various branches of my family tree. Who on earth names their bouncing baby boy — GREEN?

Naturally, as a seasoned genealogist, I assumed there had to be a valid reason for this colorful name — perhaps a maiden name of someone or in honor of a famous military hero or a local celebrity? My family is a bit eccentric, to be polite, as well as creative, but this Green given name keeps showing up so often, there has to be a story behind it. Or so I thought.

I snickered when I first encountered Greenberry Autry (Awtrey) — an older brother of my ancestor. Naturally, he was called “Green” for short. Thank goodness, my 4g-granny chose to name my ancestor just plain old Eldridge. This Greenberry, was born about 1803 in Georgia and I spent considerable time searching for someone with the surname of Greenberry because why else would my 4g-granny pass along the name? It had to be a family name.  If it is, it is hidden well.

When additional research revealed someone named Green Nathaniel Bankston in another of my Georgia families, it appeared he most likely was named in honor of the Revolutionary War soldier, General Nathanael Greene, and his parents transposed the given names. His son was named Young Green.

Gen. Nathanael Greene

But were these other “Greens” named for the general also? I really don’t know. There simply is no rhyme or reason that I can determine as to why so many of my families on non-connecting branches and different generations chose to name their sons Green.

One of my relatives was John “Green Bottom” Connally, but that was just a nickname based on a topographic name. He built the Green Bottom Inn near Huntsville, Alabama about 1815. However, typically, for my family, his genealogy is in dispute, so I’m not sure about our relationship.

I’ve even found a couple of boys named Green Hill in my tree. That made me smile, but when I discovered Olive Green on a gnarled branch, I snorted coffee on my computer monitor. So far I’ve counted 30 Greens. Can’t you just hear their mothers yelling for those sons to come home for supper?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. They could have chosen another color — like puce.

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