Questions of the Week for January 25


What if any patterns have you noticed about names in the Cartwright family across the generations?   For the purposes of this discussion, a pattern of names is anything that is repeated (with apparent purpose) either within a generation are across generations.  To use a familiar example, the three Scheffer siblings all have first names that begin with K (Krista, Kathy, and Kay). I will suggest some occurrences that I have become aware of in my reading about family history but I am eager to hear from Cartwright cousins who have noticed themes that I no doubt have not observed.

THE MONTHLY MYSTERY (February 2015):

Does anyone know when folks in the Cartwright family began to claim that the family lineage includes Native Americans? If you have read some parts of Billy’s memoir about Jess, you may have noticed that he identifies Grandma Millie as a Choctaw  Indian (apparently through her father’s family), but from what I have gathered there is no stable documentation to prove that is the case.  There is no listing in “the Dawes rolls” that demonstrates this. My brother Paul Cartwright and my cousin Karen Snyder Smith have uncovered some additional references that suggest that this claim may go back beyond Millie’s generation, but to the best of my knowledge there is no documentation that ties this down. What we find, however, is persistent storytelling about ancestors who are believed to have been “Indians.”


What kinds of things have you and your siblings wondered about with respect to our shared our genetic heritage? Let me give a couple of examples.

Example:  Several years ago, while visiting Aunt Dorothy [Cartwright Snyder], I recall her telling me that her doctor had recently prescribed a supplement for thyroid deficiency. Then she commented, “I told MC that I am the last of the six siblings to have to take Thyroid medication.” Dorothy went on to say that in her case, it was probably the result of the aging process and not necessarily an inherited problem. Even so, I was surprised to hear that all six of the siblings had received treatment for thyroid issues. Although I had known that Aunt Virginia [Cartwright Hamilton] had struggled with her thyroid levels, I was not aware that this was a problem that had affected other members of the family. I am not even sure that I knew that my father Billy had experienced thyroid deficiency. Although I am far from being an expert on this kind of medical issue, I do know that there are multiple reasons why any of us might have thyroid issues. Genetic  inheritance is one contributing factor, but not the only one.

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About mcartwright1957

I am a member of the senior administrative team at the University of Indianapolis where I have served since 1996. I am married to Mary Wilder Cartwright. We are the parents of four children: Hannah, Erin, James, and Bethany. I currently live in Nashville, IN.
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1 Response to Questions of the Week for January 25

  1. Michael G. Cartwright says:

    Not all patterns are conscious expressions. Sometimes, we inhabit traditions without being fully aware of why we do so. I was disconcerted some years ago to discover that I had fallen into a naming pattern without being aware of it. Apparently, one of the Irish [Catholic?] patterns for many generations was for a brother or sister to name their first born son after their father or mother’s oldest brother. When I began learning about my mother’s family history, I discovered So when we named our son Jamie after his Uncle Jimmy Sullivan, who was named after his Uncle James Sullivan, we were participating in a pattern that goes back to the Sullivan family in Limerick, Ireland.

    There are also patterns that can be seen when we look beyond the family within a given generation. It was not uncommon in the 19th century to name children after American icons. Two names that appear to illustrate this kind of pattern are the names of “Andrew Jackson Cartwright” (1910-19??) named after “Old Hickory,” the president from Tennessee who was known for identifying with the common man) and “General Lee Cartwright” (1899-19??) named after the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, who for many southerners embodied the noblest virtues of honor and courage. (Although I am not a big fan of the “Dukes of Hazard” TV show, readers of this blog may recall that the name of the car in that show about country folkways of a southern family was “The General Lee.”) Many years ago, I met some Cartwright “cousins” from Stone County, Arkansas whose 19th century forebears named children after George Washington. The photograph of that person bore an uncanny resemblance to my father — only in this instance, “George Washington Cartwright” had a handlebar mustache.

    Then there are the names that are passed down more or less continuously form one generation to another. Years ago, my brother, Paul, told me that he discovered that “someone in every generation” of the Cartwright family going back through the 19th century had named one of their children “Joseph.” (I am not sure who was named Joseph in Jess’s generation, but we know that Thomas Cartwright’s father’s name was Joseph and Jess’s father ‘s name was Joseph. And of course, Jess and Millie named their sixth child, Bobby Joe who named his son Joseph. Whether continuous or not, the use of the name “Joseph Cartwright” could be the longest running repetition of a single name in our extended family’s history. (Interestingly enough, this pattern doesn’t seem to have been accompanied by the use of “Jr. and “Sr.”).

    I am not sure whether Paul knew this before or after he used this name for his second-born son (His first born, Steven, died as an infant). In any event, Paul decided to name his son Joseph Tyler Cartwright. Although Paul and Wendy chose to use the middle name, it is possible that at some point in his life Tyler will elect to go by “Joseph.” Or, like his great uncle Bobby Joe Cartwright, he may think of it as a second name.

    In my own case, I deliberately chose not to name my son Joseph — not because I don’t like the name — but because I found it tiresome to endure folks calling me “Hoss” or “Little Joe” through much of my childhood and teenage years. The TV series, “Bonanza,” which ran from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, is not as well known today, but it was highly rated throughout the 1960s. Because of my great love for the story of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-50), which I once had the privilege of reading in Hebrew while studying in seminary in the early 1980s, I suspect that had I lived in another time and place, I might very well have chosen to name my child Joseph. And had I been named after the biblical character of Jesse, as our grandfather was, I might have found it irresistible to name my child David.

    Finally, I love the repetition of odd Biblical-sounding names in the collected family history of Cartwright, Stares [Starr], McDaniel, and Doyel [Doyle] lines. The Hebrew names of “Hepsikiah” and “Hesikiah” appear to have been the most used in a single generation for the children of William R. Stares (1818-). Sixteen children were born to William Starr and his wife. According to some records I have seen, two of these children (4th and 16th born) were both given the name “Hesikiah.” (The fourth born child died as an infant, so they used the name again.) And the 12th born child was named “Hepsikiah.” The last-born “Hesikiah” also spelled Hezekiah (1864-1930), was known by a nickname “Write” — apparently because he was literate enough to be able to sign documents for others — but his actual middle name was “Carbuncus.” (!) As you may know, Hezekiah was the name of one of the few kings in the Davidic line to have been remembered as displaying righteousness. Hezekiah carried with it the meanings of courage and strength.

    I don’t know if the name of “Cikiah” Forrester Stares [Starr] (1820-1900) — Millie’s paternal great grandmother– should be included in this or not, but it is another interesting connection to consider. [On another occasion, I will share what I have discovered about the name combination “Hesikiah Stares” that will throw a very different light on how that name may have resonated with folks in the 19th century.] The father of this family, William B. Stares (1818-), was a Missionary Baptist preacher from

    Recognizing the existence of such patterns in giving names to children, of course, hardly exhausts the meaning of individual names. But when we begin to pay attention to such repetitions, we sometimes start to register some of the ways in which our family participated in the wider history and culture of their time and place.


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