What's in a Name?

Where did Bristow’s name come from?  In New England, many slaves received Anglican names from their masters.  However, it was also common for slaves to be given names that had their origins from Africa’s Gold Coast.  Day names (names given to record the day of birth for a child) such as Quashi for Sunday or Quamino for Saturday were used by masters and reinforced the important ties to the Fanti-Ashanti cultures of West Africa.  The name Bristol appears in the history of the Bassa ethnic group found along the North West region of Africa (Liberia).  This region was a regular stop for Connecticut traders.  Bristol may be a version of the name Bristo(w), and these may both be anglicized from the original dialect.  His name might also have been derived from a port name such as Bristol, England or Bristol, Rhode Island.

You will find Bristow’s name spelled several different ways.  Why is this?  In an age before Noah Webster’s American Dictionary, it was common to find variations of spellings.  One way that we might determine the spelling is if Bristow had left evidence himself.  However, it appears that Bristow, like many Americans and even more blacks who had been denied a formal education, could not write.  This leaves the specific spelling of Bristow open to interpretation.

What's in a Name?

Historically this is not the most common form, but it might be argued as the most significant since it is found on the legal papers that set him free. Today, this version of the name carries on Bristow’s memory in the title of the new middle school.

In his last will and testament, Bristow’s name is spelled several different ways. One form that you will find has a double “L”. This and a couple of other spellings such as “Bristo”, found in a Farmington history, are less common variations that you might come across.

This is the most common version of his name. It is found on his tombstone, in his last will and testament, and in the small 19th-century history that is one of the first places which documents his life. This spelling appears to come into use only after he owns property in the Connecticut town spelled the same way.