• Joanne Mason

Who Was Freelove?

One of the more unusual names in my family tree belongs to a woman I know very little about.

Freelove, whose maiden name I haven’t confirmed, was my 4th great-grandmother on my father’s side, born sometime in the mid-1700s. I think she was from the area that now makes up the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border. She married a man named Joseph Pierce and had a daughter named Roby, Robey, or Rhode, depending on the source.

(Image: Freelove's spot from my Ancestry.com tree.)

I’m intrigued by her name because the first time I saw it, I envisioned the daughter of a couple who had danced joyously in the mud during the Grateful Dead’s set at the original Woodstock. But what did Freelove actually mean in the 1750s? Interestingly, she wasn’t the only Freelove around. (I’ve found it as a last name, too.)

Participants in a 2013 Reddit conversation had some suggestions. One user who had studied the time period said, “Freelove’s name likely refers to God’s free love for his believers, rather than love between individuals.” Another thought it might come “from the Old English personal name Friðulaf – ‘peace-survivor.’”

In this undated Genealogy.com post, Donna Przecha discussed names based on virtues and shared some of my modern perspectives:

Some of the most fascinating names come from early New England where parents sometimes named their children after virtues they hoped they would possess: Patience, Charity, Prudence, Thankful. Some names appear quite strange to modern ears. In view of 20th century meanings, “Freelove” does not seem to be an appropriate name for a daughter!

I suspect that Freelove won’t be pushing Olivia, Charlotte, and Ava off the most popular baby names lists anytime soon. But I do hope to discover more about her my ancestor’s life and the parents who chose this (now) unusual name.

What interesting names have you found in your family tree?

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