Family Lessons 34: Ursula

My 9x great-grandmother was Ursula Newton who died at Ingleton in 1734. I am always curious about unusual names given to ancestors at a time when most ordinary folk stuck to the usual stock. Her granddaughter and my 7x great-grandmother born in 1722, was also an Ursula, so she was held in high regard and her memory was perpetuated. Ursula is the name of the overweight octopus sea-witch in Disney's The Little Mermaid, but we can safely say this was not her parents’ inspiration. More likely, it was the Christian 'saint'.

Saint Ursula was said to have been a Romano-British Christian woman who, betrothed to a man of high rank, was killed while on pilgrimage for refusing the advances of a pagan Hun at Cologne. It all sounds legendary, as the number of her female travelling companions was said to be eleven thousand, which seems just a little beyond the bounds of credulity. The cathedral there preserved their martyred bones and naturally made a good living out of them. A mythical saint seems another unlikely source of inspiration for Granny Newton’s name, though I note it can be translated 'little she-bear', and may have described her first few weeks of keeping awake her tired parents.

Many of us can find more famous people in history and the contemporary world who share our name. Many of them are greater, more intelligent, richer and more interesting than we shall ever be. Once, there was a young Pharisee called Saul whose namesake was a king, though not an especially good one. He might have thought himself constrained by the long shadow of that tall but sullen man. Yet he became far greater and more famous than the ancient ruler, for having encountered the Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road. It is not our names that make us great, but He who saves us and uses us for His glory.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. Psalm 148:13

Image by 445693 from Pixabay