My middle name
Theodore Stevens Norvell
My middle name is "Stevens", a common family name, but rarely a given name. Where it comes from is an interesting story.
- My father was Stevens Thompson Norvell, Jr (1923-2015), a surgeon and professor.
- He got the name from his father Stevens Thompson Norvell, Sr (1896-1965), an engineer.
- His father, Hamilton Redfield Norvell (1863--1936), a printer, farmer, accountant, and sometime convict, presumably had named S. T. Sr for his brother, Colonel Stevens Thompson Norvell (1865-1901).
- Their father, Colonel Freeman Norvell (1827--1881), had named his son after his brother, Colonel Stevens Thompson Norvell (1835-1911). Both brothers served in the cavalry for the Union during the U.S. Civil War. S. T. was promoted to Colonel after the war and served with the Buffalo Soldiers (Black soldiers with White officers). Freeman was a Colonel during the Civil war, but resigned under a cloud. Later, as a Captain, he was at Gettysburg.)
- The father of the two elder Colonels Norvell was Sen John Norvell (1789-1850), one of the original federal senators from Michigan. He named his son in honour of his good friend and political ally, Gov. Stevens Thomson Mason (1811--1843), the first Governor of Michigan, nicknamed "The boy Governor". (Note the P has disappeared, although it will return earlier.) Senator John was the son of a Revolutionary War officer Lt. Lipscomb Norvell from Virginia, a descendant of Virginia planters. But here we must leave the Norvell line to follow the Mason line, which also leads us across the Mason-Dixon line from Michigan to Virginia.
- Gov. Stevens Thomson Mason was the son of John Thomson Mason (1787-1850), Virginia born secretary of Michigan Territory. John's brother was a Stevens Thompson Mason II (1789-1815). Perhaps John Thomson Mason started the tradition of passing the name from uncle to nephew; but, then again, perhaps not for:
- They were both sons of Stevens Thomson Mason I (1760-1803), who was a Colonel in the continental army and later a federal senator. The spelling of this S. T. Mason's name is sometimes given as "Stephens Thompson" and the same goes for all earlier holders of the name. By the way, in addition to a son and a grandson bearing his name, S. T. Mason I also had another grandson Stevens Thomson Mason (1819-1847), the son of Armistead Thomson Mason (1787-1819).
- S. T. Mason I was son of Thomson Mason (1733-1785), chief justice of Virginia and younger brother of the more famous George Mason IV (1725-1792), one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution and, in particular, one of the "fathers" of its Bill of Rights. (Thus making Thomson Mason an "uncle" of the Bill of Rights.) George Mason IV also had a son named Thomson Mason.
- The mother of Thomson Mason and George Mason IV was Ann Stevens Thomson Mason (1699-1762), married to George Mason III. (George Mason III's grandfather, George Mason I, had come from England in 1652, having been an MP and on the losing side of the civil war -- making Mason's new-comers by Norvell standards. One wonders what the royalist first George would have thought of his revolutionary great grandsons.) Ann Stevens Thomson was the daughter of
- Stevens Thomson (or Stephens Thompson, etc) (?-1714?) who was Attorney General of Virginia from 1702 to about 1714. His birth date is sometimes given as circa 1658 and sometimes as circa 1674. He was the older brother of Sir William Thompson (1678--kt 1714--1739), born in either Yorkshire or Staffordshire and MP for Orford and, later, Ipswitch, both in Suffolk. (Not to be confused with Sir William Thompson, born in Yorkshire and MP for Scarborough in Yorkshire at the same time.) Both brothers were admitted to the Middle Temple --a London school for barristers-- in 1688. (This seems rather young for William, but sources agree).
- Stevens and Sir William were sons of another Sir William Thompson (or Thomson) (?-kt-1689-169?) and grandsons of a
- Henry Thompson. Henry Thompson, by the way, owned Hollin Hall in either Ripon Yorkshire or in Staffordshire, where it seems his great-grand-daughter Anne was born. Hollin Hall is also the name of a plantation in Virginia, passed from George Mason IV to his son Thompson.
- At this point I run out of solid information. How Stevens Thomson (or Stephens Thompson, etc.) got his unusual given name remains a mystery. Perhaps it was his mother's maiden name. Indeed, a marriage licence for a William Thompson of the Middle Temple and a Mary Stephens was issued in London in 1668. (Chester and Dean) This date is later than the earlier (1658) supposed birth date of Stevens Thomson. However the later date of 1674 would make him only about 4 years older than his brother the MP and about 25 at the birth of his daughter, so it makes a bit more sense than one 12 years earlier; on the other hand a 1674 birth would make him only about 28 when he became Attorney General. Furthermore, it appears that Stevens and William had a sister named Mary-- though, of course, this was a very common given name. (See Keith, p. 21.) If the older Sir William did marry Mary Stephens, the point where Stephens (or Stevens) went from a family name to a given name is pinpointed.
This makes a total of ten people I know of with the name "Stevens Thompson" (or some variation): four S. T. Norvells, four S. T. Masons, Ann S. T., and her father, the original (?) Stevens Thomson. The first was born about 250 years before the latest.
As for my first name ... that is simple: It is my mother's name pronounced backwards.
John E. Norvell, History of the Norvell and Related Families, 2006.
C. P. Keith, "Armistead Family", The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol 7, No. 1, pp 17--24, July 1898. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1919906
Kate Mason Rowland, "Sir William Thompson, brother of Stevens Thompson, Attorney General of Virginia", The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol 3, Num 3, pp. 154-162, Jan. 1895. http://www.jstor.org/pss/1914768
Lots of Wikipedia entries (accessed in 2010 and 2011) including
Joseph Lemuel Chester and John Ward Dean, "London marriage licences, 1521-1869", page 1334. http://books.google.ca/books?id=Xf8cAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA274&lpg=PA274, Bernad Quaritch,1887.