Robert Robert Robert
Itâ€™s baby season at Adam Matthew at the moment, with our staff producing almost as many babies this year as we have collections. With each bundle of joy comes the discussion of baby names, a discussion I remember having myself when I had my own bundle of joy (now a toddler terror) a few years ago. Whilst lists of boys and girls names are made and debated in our offices and staff room, Iâ€™m starting to wonder if it would all be a bit simpler if we just took a leaf from the Livingstons of New Yorkâ€™s book and just call all upcoming babies the same name.
Working on our American History resource a number of years ago, I became intimately acquainted with Robert Livingston and his family due to our work with the Livingston Family papers currently held at the Gilder Lehrman institute and digitised as part of our extensive collection American History 1493-1945. As an editorial assistant, I checked and read through papers detailing their financial accounts, their personal correspondence, their travel expenses, the court cases they were involved in, their tenants and rents. I knew about their families, their holdings, their thoughts and also how much they paid for a sheath of wheat in 1762. One thing that I always struggled with however, despite my intimacy with their business, was which Robert Livingston I was currently reading about.
The Livingstons liked the name Robert. So much so that there was guaranteed to be a Robert Livingston in every generation (sometimes two). So, when a letter was addressed from Robert Livingston to Robert Livingston (occasionally talking about another Robert Livingston), there was a certain amount of detective work required to work out what exactly was going on. The name Robert was so popular that some of the Livingstons used it twice for their child, resulting in a number of Robert Robert Livingstons in the family tree.
The Robert Livingstons of New York, now often called Bob Livingston, are still a fundamental part of American history, as is the tradition of naming the son for the father. Whilst many in the modern world search for a unique name to bestow on their progeny, there is something irresistible in continuing a link through hundreds of years. Itâ€™s doubtful that historians and researchers of family histories will ever escape the confusing duplicates in a family tree.