Bird Names as Gifts: Eponyms for Family Members

While most eponyms have fairly extensive histories behind them, there is one category of naming for which there is often very minimal information on; eponyms gifted to family members. While in some instances the family member in question may be noted figures in their own right, a substantial number of them received these names purely due to their relationship with the one naming the species, and history tends to record little of them while focusing on the namer.

Sadly, a high proportion of the women who have eponyms named for them fall into this category; there are wives, daughters and grand-daughters whose widely recorded legacy is limited to an eponym and a few brief snippets.

This page is specifically for those for whom little in known beyond their relationship to a more prominent figure. Where such a relative had a direct personal connection with the bird species or were otherwise noted in history in their own right will be covered in their own articles.

The Birds:

Swift, Adelaide

Adelaide was the daughter of Robert Swift, an American financier and patron of a number of collecting trips who recieved the first specimen of this species. Little information is readily available on either.

Sources:

  • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p.16

Adelaide’s Warbler – photo by Jaro Nemčok [link]

Verreaux, Johanna

Johanna was the wife of Jean Baptiste Eduard Verreaux and sister-in-law to Jules Pierre Verreaux, and the two brothers chose to name the species in her honour.

Sources:

  • The Eponym Dictionary of birds, p. 351
  • Johanna’s Sunbird [link]

    Hume, Mary Anne Grindall

    Mary Hume (1824-1890) was the wife of Allan Octavian Hume, with whom she had one daghter. Little further information is available.

    Sources:

  • The Eponym Dictionary of birds, p. 394
  • Mrs Hume’s Pheasant [link]

    Cassin, Rachel

    Rachel Cassin (1844-?) was the daughter of John Cassin who gave the following reasoning for the naming:

    “I name the present beautiful bird after my loved and only daughter. Should her pathway in the world be pleasant, may she know also the great gratification that comes from the pursuit of Natural History…”

    John Cassin

    Little further information is available.

    Sources:

    • The Eponym Dictionary of birds, p. 453
    • Weaver Watch – Rachel’s Malimbe [link]

    Rachel’s Malimbe [link]

    Lesson, Zoë

    Zoë Lesson was the wife of the naturalist René Lesson. Little further information is available.

    Sources:

    • The Eponym Dictionary of birds, p. 420

    Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon – photo by Doug Janson [link]

    Durmont d’Urville, Adélie

    Adélie Durmont d’Urville, née Adèle Dorothée Pépin (1798-1842) has an indirect eponym – her husband Jules Dumont d’Urville was in the French navy and was doctor and naturalist aboard the ship the Coquille which explored the Southern Ocean and South Pacific. He named a section of Antarctica after his wife (Adélie Land) a name which in turn was given to the new species of penguin discovered there.

    Tragically, both Adélie and Jules would die in the Versailles Rail Accident, what was at the time the deadliest railway incident in the world.

    Sources:

    • Teara.govt.nz: Story: Dumont d’Urville [link]

    Adélie Penguin – photo by Liam Quinn [link]

    Letiza del Gallo Roccagiovine

    Letiza del Gallo Roccagiovine (1848-1853) was the grand-daughter of ornithologist Charles Bonaparte, and thus also a part of the wider Bonaparte dynasty. She died at age 15.

    The hummingbird named for her is only known from two old specimens.

    Sources:

    • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p. 330

    Letitia’s Thorntail [link]