DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 1999-01 > 0915910939
From: Diana Trenchard< >
Subject: Re: Dorcas
Date: Sat, 9 Jan 1999 19:42:19 +0000
Dennis Banks wrote:
> Can SKS please tell me whether the name Dorcas is common to the West
>Country areas or to the whole of England, particularly in the early 1800's.
>The name crops up in my ancestry and I'm still trying to determine an area
>of origin. Your input will be most welcome.
Dorcas is certainly a very old name, being found in the New Testament of
the Bible (Acts ix,39) where she was described as someone who had made
coats and garments.
With the rise of non-conformism in 17 & 18C there was a return to naming
children after biblical characters - Abraham, Isaac, etc. It is therefore
possible that Dorcas also became popular at this time, along with Rebecca
and Sarah. Since non-conformism took an early and strong hold in the West
Country, I would GUESS that there is a higher probability of finding the
name Dorcas here, rather than in London, for example.
Another possible explanation for the appearance of the name Dorcas in the
early 19C may have resulted from gratitude to the Dorcas Society, founded
at that time or possibly a little earlier. As mentioned above, the
biblical Dorcas made clothes, and that is what members of the Dorcas
Society did, especially in relation to supplying clothing at the time a
woman gave birth. The Dorcas Society was very active in the 19C and
continued well into the 20C. It consisted of both "givers" (subscribers)
and "receivers". The "givers" both contributed money and also had regular
working parties to make the clothing. In return they could "sponsor" a
poor woman for a month's loan of a pack containing baby clothing, bed linen
and night gowns, necessary for the confinement. Coal and a small sum of
money were also issued, and if the pack was returned in good condition at
the end of the month, then a length of flannel and a piece of print
material was given to the new mother. To have clean and warm clothing for a
new-born baby - and Mum - may well have meant the difference between life
and death in a poor family last century, and might well have resulted in
the child being called Dorcas.
To the 'oldies' amongst us, perhaps you can also remember how the name
Dorcas lingered on as a brand-name for warm children's vests and those
fleecy-lined liberty bodices that we all wore!
No clear-cut answers for you, Dennis, about the occurrence of the name
Dorcas throughout Engand, but I hope the above is of interest.
Diana in Dorset.