Period or Not…Names
This is a recurring series by Mistress Alys Mackyntoich on whether certain names currently can be documented to period based on existing evidence.. There are a lot of names that people think are medieval, but actually aren’t, and others which people think are modern, but in fact are found in the SCA’s period. If you would like to suggest a name, send an email to the Gazette.
Today’s name is Liam.
Liam has long been a problem name for the heralds. Many people assume
it is medieval, but in fact we have no evidence of its being used as a
given name in the medieval or Renaissance era. Nor has there been any
evidence of its being a period nickname for “William.” The closest
thing to Liam we have found so far in an Irish context is a woman
named Joan nyne Lyeme (in other words, Joan daughter of Lyeme) in an
Anglicized Irish record from the era of Elizabeth I.
However, for people determined to have the name Liam (such as certain
Peers of my long acquaintance), we have found a way to make it
registerable. As I have discussed a few times in these articles,
there is an established a pattern of using late 16th century English
surnames as given names. The most well-known example of this is
Guildford Dudley, the husband of Lady Jane Grey, whose first name was
based on a family surname.
We do have evidence of a woman with the surname Liam who was married
in Cambridge, England in 1592. Because the pattern of using 16th
century English surnames as given names actually existed in period,
evidence of Liam as an English surname permits registration of Liam as
an English given name. As it is considered an English name, it can be
used with an Irish or Scottish surname.
 The Fourteenth Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records
in Ireland (https://archive.org/details/reportofdeputyke1416irel),
 September 2012 Cover Letter
 Joana Liam; Female; Marriage; 1592; Elsworth, Cambridge, England;
Batch: M13053-1 ((https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NJ1W-6MF).