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Archive for March, 2012

A Different Kind of Aha Moment

Recently as I was looking into the family of Abel Peters of Dutchess County, NY I came across a strange new name… “Whereas Ahasuerus Ellsworth my present husband, by his bond dated 10 Sept 1794 did bind himself and his heirs to my son Abel Peters now dcd….My last will: Sarah Ellsworth of Town of Washington, County of Dutchess….” I had never heard this name before, and at first thought it to be a bad transcription. However, an ancestry search using only the given name and New York as location did turn up others. And so of course I became curious…how would you pronounce it? Is there a shorter version?

I goggled the name and learned that it was a Biblical name for a Persian king. The Bible dictionary and concordance gives the following synopsis from the Old Testament Book of Esther:

In the Bible Ahasuerus is said to have ruled over 127 provinces “from India to Ethiopia” (Est 1:1-2).

In the third year of his reign he gave a sumptuous banquet for the heads of his provinces and court officials and ordered his wife, the beautiful Queen Vashti, to present herself at the banquet. Upon her refusal to obey his order, he dismissed her as his wife (Est 1:3-8, 10-19), and chose Esther, a Jewess, to replace her (Est 2:1-4, 17). At the instigation of his chief minister Haman, a decree was issued for the annihilation of all the Jews living in the empire (Est 3:1-15). This scheme was thwarted by Esther and her cousin Mordecai. Haman was hanged and a new decree was issued by Ahasuerus allowing the Jews the right to kill their enemies (Est 8:3-14, 9:5-10, 13-14).

One can just picture the intrigue going on behind the scenes as this plot was hatched and thwarted. Though interesting, the story sheds little light on why in the world would someone name their son Ahasuerus? Pronunciation options varied widely depending on the answering web site. Perhaps there is no one left today who owns this name and can tell us for sure. And, I am left still wondering what the nickname would be…would the full name be used, or did his friends just call him Aha?

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