Elizabeth (Fisher) Hopkins, one of the three pregnant women who boarded the Mayflower over a month ago, the wife of Stephen Hopkins, was delivered of a son, who, on account of the circumstances of his birth, was named Oceanus. This was the first birth aboard the ship during the voyage, and the only birth on the high seas. Giving a child a unique name like Oceanus was not unheard of, even in the 17th century when most names were either inherited, Biblical, or came from a king or queen. The White family named their son, born on board the Mayflower shortly after its arrival in the New World, Peregrine, meaning “traveller” or, significantly, “pilgrim.” When Stephen Hopkins was a castaway in Bermuda in 1609, the two children born there were named Bermudas (a boy, son of Edward Eason) and Bermuda (a girl, daughter of John Rolfe and Sarah Hacker, who died -- both mother and daughter -- several months later). We have no further record of Oceanus Hopkins, and must conclude that he died before May 1627, because he is not included in the division of cattle of that month. On board the Mayflower, Oceanus joined his brother Giles (13) and sister Constance (14), the children of Stephen Hopkins by his first wife Mary, and Damaris (2), by his second wife Elizabeth. Stephen and Mary had an additional daughter Elizabeth (b. c. 1604), but William Bradford in his list of passengers names only two children by this couple who came on the Mayflower, and there is no record of Elizabeth after 1613. Only Constance and Giles reached adulthood and had issue; Stephen Hopkins and Elizabeth Fisher had five more children in Plymouth, of whom two reached adulthood and had children of their own. The Damaris Hopkins who came on the Mayflower must have died before about 1628, because Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins named their daughter born in that year Damaris, indicating that the elder daughter of that name had already died. Of Stephen Hopkins’ ten children by his two wives, only four are known to have reached adulthood and now have descendants, in contrast to the more prolific Howlands.
The verifiers at the GSMD Library in Plymouth keep a running list of the most astonishing names they run across, and the competition for the most unusual name of the week is fairly stiff. I won the prize one week when I discovered a man named “Henchman Soule” (perhaps the modification of a Dutch name, but still rather humorous to modern ears). Longtime Harvard chaplain Peter Gomes enjoyed collecting these sorts of surprising (or at least ambiguous) names, and frequently pointed out that the not unusual seventeenth century girl’s name “Experience” (indicating that her parents hoped she would have an experience of God’s presence and providence) would mean something rather different in the late twentieth century.