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Thanksgiving Name: Isannah

Isannah (eye-SANN-uh) is my "Thanksgiving name" this year because this Colonial appellation was the name given to one of Paul Revere's daughters, who unfortunately only lived a year. But Paul Revere, who warned the residents of Concord, Massachusetts of the coming British military, was a key part in the American Revolutionary War. His famous alert was recorded in (slightly non-factual) poetic legend by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in "Paul Revere's Ride." Isannah's name was later found in a book by Esther Forbes called Johnny Tremain in 1943, about the American Revolution. Her fictional character meets the historical Paul Revere, and the character Isannah Lapham may have been inspired by Revere's real daughter's name. At least in my mind, Isannah is a patriotic name because of the legacy of her father.

Isannah was not a very uncommon name at the time, as there is record of an Isannah born in 1690 and several more around the birth of Revere's daughter. Isannah may have been one of the first examples of Americans "changing" traditional names. There is a strong possibility Isannah comes from one of the -annah ending names, such as Hannah or Susannah. I'm doubtful that it could be a combination of Isabella and Hannah/Susannah because Isabella and Isabelle not in heavy useage at the time, but it remains a possibility. There is even a possibility it comes from Hosannah. But my best guess, considering Revere's wife was named Sarah, and two other daughters were named Deborah (after Paul's mother) and Sarah (after his wife), is that Isannah was named after his grandfather Isaac Rivoire, but kept the -annah ending like the other two girls. If I'm wrong, Biblical names were big in Colonial America, and nicknames were starting to be (leading up to Mamie, Susie, etc), so Isannah could have just been from Hannah or Susannah after all. But Isaac is Biblical as well, meaning "laughter." Isanna (spelled this way and Isana) is also a Germanic name meaning "a strong-willed woman."

Although Isannah Revere was born in 1772, the government didn't have its Social Security Administration's name records until 1880. A quick look at 1880's charts reveal Isannah had sort of died out, and no girls were given the name. It was still used sparingly, though, as I've found record of an Isannah Winslow born 1838, an Isannah Edwards born 1840, and an Isannah Bertha White born 1861. After Johnny Tremain was released, it doesn't seem like Isannah picked up much more attention. White Pages claims there are only 9 living Isannah's.



Comments

  1. Esther Forbes wrote a very good biography of Paul Revere. See also Izannah Walker (sometimes spelled Isannah).

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