Home > 013960. Macuth "Matthew" Pratt > The Given Name Macuth

The Given Name Macuth

Source: Mary Ann Long Skinner, “The Given Name Macuth,” American Genealogist 58[1993].

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Now that Frederick J. NICHOLSON has brought an end, in “The English Origin of Macuth1 PRATT and Edward1 BATES” (TAG 65[1991]:33-43, 89-96), to the century-long spurious existence of “Matthew” PRATT of Weymouth, Massachusetts, an investigation of the unusual first name Macuth is in order. Macuth is not a Biblical name, nor is it listed in E.G. Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3d ed. (Oxford, 1977). I had not thought that it might be a saint’s name until I noticed St. Machute on the church calender in the front of The Holy Bible, 1611 Edition, King James Version: A Word-for-Word Reprint of the First Edition of the Authorized Version (Nashville, Tenn., 1990). St. Machute’s day is given as 15 November.

St. Machute is identified in David Hugh Farmer’s Oxford Dictionary of Saints (2nd ed. [Oxford, 1987], 279-80). St. Machute, also called St. Malo, was born possibly in Wales about the sixth or seventh century and was an

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“apostle of Brittany,” which means that he established Christianity there. Colorful stories about his life were known, and he had many admirers in pre-Reformation England. His feast was widely celebrated and several churches claimed to have some of his relics.

The name Machute is clearly the same name as Macuth, which is the form that Macuth1 PRATT of Weymouth used. This is demonstrated by the eight entries for this Macuth PRATT in the parish register of Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire (TAG 65[1990]:38). The variant spellings are: Maccuth (four times), and Macut, Macute, Machuth, and Machute (one each).

Thus, when Macuth1 PRATT was born around 1595, his parents gave him the name of St. Machute, who had long been popular in England and who was still on the Anglican calendar. However, Macuth PRATT’s parents probably did not make an independent selection of the name. As NICHOLSON suggests, he was probably named after the Machute PRATT who was buried in the same parish on 9 January 1606/7 (TAG 65[1990]:89).

The last issue I want to address is whether it was reasonable for a person baptized in the Church of England in 1595 to carry the name of a non-scriptural saint. Withycombe (xxxvi) says that during the Reformation all the saints who were not mentioned in the Bible fell into disgrace, were taken off the church calendar, and no longer had children named after them. George [photocopy illegible] Stewart turned this into a major theological issue in American Given Names ([New York, 1979], 9ff.), and cited the popularity of Agnes, Katherine, and Margaret as evidence of Catholic influence in post-Reformation England.

Actually, these three saints were recognized by the Church of England. Fifty-three non-scriptural saints were shown on the 1611 calendar, along with twenty Biblical saints. According to Farmer (xvi), the selection of this short list out of nearly a thousand candidates was “in some ways anomalous,” and I have not tried to analyze it in any detail. The names include early Christian martyrs (e.g., Laurence, Cyprian, Lucy, Faith), English saints (e.g., Edward, Edmond, Richard, Etheldreda), and various others (e.g., Jerome, Anne, Martin, Giles). Many of these names were popular among the English after the Reformation, so there seems to be no reason why Macuth1 PRATT wasn’t named for St. Machute, either directly or indirectly.

Mrs. Skinner is an aerospace engineer. She lives at 2617 Lemon Tree Lane, Vienna VA 22181-5416.

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