Study of the Holyoke Directory

by Laurel | December 22nd, 2011

22 December 1901

Holyoke City Directory, 1901 title page

Holyoke City Directory, 1901 title page

Where Good Irish Names Abound — With a Good Sprinkling of French

The perusal of that interesting book the Holyoke Directory, is generally done between snatches of profanity and with such suddenness that the rich beauties of the work are not clearly discernible. In time, when the bustling, hurrying Holyoke workers shall have accumulated their competence, and time arrives for leisure, we shall expect to see clubs formed for the studying of that work. In point of fact, it is a rich field for investigation, and a skirmish with its pages always evolves as choice a collection of statistics as a bout with a government report. Where else shall we learn of the Smiths and the Jonses and the Sullivans, and those whose names begin with “Mc” and “O” and “De”? Let us therefore taking pencil and paper be away into the poetic field of nomenclature, written down in proper order from Aaron, George, to Zwisler, John, with which names open and close the roll of Holyoke’s busy workaday people.

There are 20,256 names in the Holyoke directory — almost as many as the average man calls his dog when it runs off down the alley with the disreputable cur owned by his neighbor across the way. If you had those persons 20,256 in number, seated in a big amphitheater, and called out “Mac” at the top of your voice, you could reasonably expect to see 610 men and women arise — that is, if the women answered to a cry like that, for about 3 percent of Holyoke’s men and women according to the directory, have “Mc” or “Mac” before their names — not counting some who have merged the “Mc” into other words, and some who have changed it otherwise. Of the big “Mc” family, the McDonald people are preeminent, there being 63 of this name. Another, and the biggest single family is the family of the Sullivans. A reunion of Holyoke men of this name would require a hall with a seating capacity of 323. Of plain John Sullivan there are 17 — imagine the sorrow of the post office department when a letter comes to Holyoke addressed simply as “John Sullivan, Holyoke.” Besides there are 22 other Johns with initials, making 39 John Sullivans with and without distinguishing initials. There are 13 Daniels, 10 Jeremiahs, 14 plain Michaels and several more with initials, 10 plain Patricks and several with initials, and a great variety of other names to finish out the list of 232.

John is a favorite name in all families, and, like Abou Ben Adhem’s “leads all the rest.” Next, perhaps, comes Michael and Jeremiah — the number of men whose initials are “J.J.” are legion. When you can’t think of the right initials of a Holyoke man’s name you can put down J.J. or M.J. and you will be pretty sure to strike it right 9 times out of 10. The big Smith family have already been alluded to — 107 in all — and 10 of them the proverbial John Smith. Then there are the Jones’s — just a few — 22 to be exact; the Davises who number 40 and the 36 Johnsons nearly as many. Returning to some of the bigger families we nod that the Griffins are quite a host, 112 with 13 Johns and eight Michaels — five of them Michael J.s. The Kennedys number 85 and they have 10 plain Johns to distract the mail carriers, and the O’Connors are a still larger force than either — 128 with 23 Johns — a large number of them having the “J.J.” initials. Some of the leading french names are Provost, with 41 enrolled, 30 Demers, 37 Gauthiers, 40 Heberts, 32 Benoits and 40 Fourniers. Mention may be made briefly of some of the other leading numbers as follows: Murphys 97, Fitzgeralds 82, McCarthys 84, Lynches 79, Browns 70, Moriartys 69, Kanes 63, O’Neils 58, Donoghues 39 and Donahues 68 (there are three or four ways of spelling this name, and if they were all grouped together they would make one of the biggest families). Clarks 50, Whites 46, Welches 59 and many others, the list being suggestive rather than inclusive. Most of the largest families are included however.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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