Monday, May 28, 2018


If you explore many of Ocracoke's old family cemeteries you will eventually stumble upon some unusual first names. Across from Village Craftsmen you will see the graves of my great-grandparents, James Howard and his wife, Zilphia Grey Williams Howard.

Tombstone, Zilphia G. W.  Howard

 Zilphia was born in 1841, one of eight children of Sarah O'Neele and Joseph Williams. Two of Zilphia's sisters (Cordelia and Elizabeth) married two of James' brothers (Enoch Ellis and Perry Coleman).

Zilphia is an uncommon name. In 1888 28 of every one million baby girls were named Zilphia. By 1950, only 4 in a million were named Zilphia. I have no figures for recent years, but I feel confident it is even fewer nowadays.

Zilphia (sometimes Zilpha) is a biblical name of Hebrew origin. The name was revived in English-speaking areas in the 18th century and was somewhat popular in the 19th century. It is a variant of Zilpah. In the Hebrew scriptures, Zilpah is the handmaid of Jacob's wife Leah, and mother of Jacob's children, Gad and Asher.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here:

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