Genes Reunited Blog
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William Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated every April in Stratford-upon-Avon, his birthplace, with a costumed parade. He was baptised on 26 April, and is thought to have been born on or near 23 April.
There are currently 64 people using Genes Reunited who have traced a family tree connection to William Shakespeare (1564-1616). He is known for popularising and even inventing several first names in his plays. What influence has he had on your family tree? If you have a Miranda, Olivia, or Romeo in your family, the popularity of their name may owe something to the Bard.
To mark Shakespeare’s birthday month – also the month in which he died – we took a look at some of the records on Genes Reunited to reveal the use of some charming Shakespearean names throughout history.
Juliet as a name for girls in England was certainly popularised by Shakespeare. Before ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written, Guileta and Juliette were mostly used in Europe. Juliet became popular in later centuries, and appears in families which also contain a Romeo with some regularity. There are over 2,000 Romeo entries in our Births, Marriages and Deaths records – but over 33,000 Juliet entries.
The 1841 English census features a Birmingham family, the Olivers, who must have been fans of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. They chose to name two of their six children Romeo and Juliet. Born in 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, Romeo was four years old at the time of the census, while Juliet Oliver was nine.
In 1851, we find siblings Romeo and Juliet Cooper living together in the parish of Leamington Priors in Warwickshire. Born in 1802 and aged 49 at the census date, Romeo Cooper was a baker. His sister Juliet’s life story may have been less romantic – or perhaps more practical – than that of her fictional namesake, as far from undergoing the teenage doomed marriage of the play, she was unmarried at 54.
Meanwhile in 1871 Romeo Minney was recorded on the census as the 47-year-old head of a household in Great Bolton, Lancashire. Romeo had chosen to name his daughter Juliet, who was eight years old when the census was taken.
Perhaps the most romantic Shakespeare name stories in our records are the marriages of Romeos to Juliets. Most of these are more recent. In 1968 Julieta Cimafranca married Romeo Luis in Fulham. Romeo Ramson and Juliet Alli were married in Lambeth, South London, in 1971.
One person in the records is named after both characters. Romeo Juliet C Forsdike was born in 1888 in Sheffield, dying in 1982 at the age of 94. Presumably his parents were dedicated Shakespeare fans.
Desdemona and Othello are quite reliably popular name choices across our records. Rarer names such as Malvolio appear less often – perhaps for obvious reasons in Malvolio’s case! But they do turn up on rare occasions. In 1901 a seven-year-old Shylock McCue was living in Widnes in Lancashire, while there is an 1861 birth record from Romford, Essex for a Shylock Foy. The 1911 census contains a 60-year-old Coriolanus Cocker who worked as an ‘importer of calcium curbine’.
Returning to the 1841 census, the Sweeting family were living in Shoreditch, and their one-year-old baby was named Petruchio – perhaps after Katarina’s eccentric and controversial suitor in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
We have not as yet turned up any record of an Oberon marrying a Titania, but in a coincidental echo of ‘The Tempest’, Miranda Gair married Ferdinand D'Souza in Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1992. And in Texas in 1999, an Anthony Kelley married Cleopatra Hicks.