“Paschel” P. West. What’s in a (Given) Name?

I’ve already blogged about my family tree brick wall, George W. West (b. abt. 1819 in Spartanburg County, SC). As I’ve been digging and delving into that family though, one given name keeps sticking out to me. “Paschel” or, as it’s sometimes spelled, “Paschal” or “Pascal.” I have two Paschels in my West line, and have found several more in their indirect lines or living near them in time.

After Googling around, I was intrigued to find that “Pascal” or “Paschel” as a given name comes from the Hebrew word “pesach” meaning Passover. Apparently, it was traditional in France, Germany and the Hebrew tradition to name a child born around Passover or Easter “Paschel” and it’s variations.

So Paschal I decided to check this out, and sure enough – the eldest Paschal I’ve identified in my line was born in April 1845! (Even though Easter was in March that year. I don’t think they were celebrating Passover – his dad was definitely Baptist later in life and his mom was from Ireland – but who the heck knows? These days we think of Passover as a typically Jewish holiday and celebration but it may not have been the case back in those times. Further research needed!)

The word “paschal” is also used to describe various events around Easter. For instance, huge paschal candles are used in Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican rites around Easter.

Paschal Candles (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Paschal Candles (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I have no earthly clue why my ancestors from Ireland and South Carolina hooked up with a Hebrew naming tradition. In fact, if you know anything about the origin of the name Paschel or Paschal or Pascal and want to compare notes, I’m all ears. Leave a comment below or contact me.

As a fun exercise, check on the birthdates of your early Paschals. If they were born near Easter, maybe your family was in on the Hebrew naming tradition, too! (And if they do, for pete’s sake, let me know. I’d love to know where they picked this tradition up and how common it was!)


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