What's in a name? For Philip and Martha, a lot, because their's were turbulent times of sectarianism and religious Reformation. For a century, England had flouted Papal authority, dissolving monasteries, confiscating church property and neglecting the poor. In response, Catholic leadership encouraged France and Spain to invade England while the Inquisition tested the faith of all Europeans.

Social strife between Protestant values and feudal tradition threatened civil war and the English Crown granted some Puritan dissenters leave to settle New England in a "Great Migration" to build their utopia in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Conscious of their vulnerability, the Puritan colonists raided French settlements in Canada and fought their Indian agents in New England. They buccaneered on the Spanish Main and knew that the Spanish crushed the Huguenot settlement in Florida. When war threatened, they rounded up French residents and expelled their priests. There was the failed Huguenot settlement at Oxford, where some naive French settlers, new to the frontier, sold liquor to the Indians and the hostilities between the Huguenots of Frenchtown (Narraganset) and the English of East Greenwich RI.

Philip and Martha's patron, while known as Phillippe L'Anglois in Jersey, become Philip English in Salem. Their Beverly neighbors, the Larcoms, changed their name from La Combe to fit in. The next-door neighbor, Benjamin Dike was killed by Indians loyal to the French, while off Cape Sable on a fishing trip. They had seen their own neighbors caught up in the witch hysteria.

So even though Philip and Martha were actually English subjects by birth, it seems they took precautions anyway. Anglicize the name, pioneer a town someplace safe, lose the accent, get to know their neighbors, become pillars of society and marry the children off to the best prospects available. Speaking or writing in French, or using a French-sounding name was a liability in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of 1700.

How Our Family Name Came To Be Cody
       By the Hopkinton records of the surname of our immigrant ancestor, Philip, we know that his name there was always written without the “le” which commonly appears in the Beverly records of it. To account for his coming thus to discard the use of this syllable with his name we need first to recall the fact elsewhere presented that by its nature as the French definitive word it was not regarded by him as an essential part of his surname. Nevertheless since its use with his surname had been inherited, why should he come to discard it? An answer seems readily to be found as we take

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into account the fact that scarcely could the entirely English-speaking residents of Beverly consider this “le” of Philip’s pronunciation and spelling of his name as being other than the first syllable of it. And plainly, so to consider it must make Philip’s name a three-syllable one instead of the two-syllable name indifferently qualified by the French definitive “le”(l) as he had inherited it. The only escape from having his name thus transformed by the English conception of the “le” was plainly to discard its use and to pronounce his name only in the two syllables of its distinctive part. That within a few years after becoming a resident of Beverly Philip had seriously contemplated doing this seems indicated by the first two church records(2) concerning him, where as above noted his name was written without the “le”. While as above suggested, this omission(3) seems not to have been authorized by Philip, yet it reasonably indicates that he had discussed with the minister-recorder of this church his intention to do this at some convenient time. By the circumstances(4) of Philip’s life during the early years at Beverly, his having to learn a new language, and his being often away from home by virtue of his calling as seafaring, scarcely could be without causing confusion for himself and family, ask those who had come to know him as Legody to change to the two-syllable Gody; and with the passing of time and so with more people knowing him as Legody the difficulty of making this change must have been increased. However, quite likely he from time to time discussed with his growing sons his interest to make this change; especially might he have been led to do this since (as above noted) in the baptism record of the first four of the children their name had been written without the “le”(5). Thus long before the family discarded the “le” the children may reasonably have entertained the idea that this change would eventually be made. Also as above suggested, Philip seems early to have contemplated moving from Beverly to some place more favorable for developing the sizeable farm(6) he desired to possess; and in this anticipated change of residence he would naturally foresee the opportune time to make the desired change in his name. Thus in having his name recorded at Hopkinton without the French definitive “le” Philip was doubtless realizing a long cherished desire that the distinctive part of his surname should not be submerged by the English conception of the “le” as being the first syllable of a three-syllable name.
       That Philip upon discarding the use of the “le” with his name at Hopkinton thereupon had it initialed “C” instead of “G”, the letter which initialed the distinctive part of his name as he had inherited it, reasonably seems the indirect result of the fact, above noted, that “C” was the letter in the baptism records of his children(7). For since two of the four children baptized at the same time were of school age at the time of their baptism(8), it may reasonably be assumed that the Beverly school master (who became a communicant of this church at about the date(9) of this baptism) sought for the “correct” spelling of their surname by consulting the church records of it; and finding there the “C” initialing(10) of it, and needing to take into account the “le” of the children’s pronunciation of their name, he could scarcely do otherwise than record their name as Lecody(11), naturally then, would the children come to use “C” in the spelling of their surname(12). With the difference in pronunciation between Legody and Lecody not particularly noticeable, the children’s use of “C” in the spelling of their name may reasonably have caused but little comment from their parents. But, since names differently initialed

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are different names, a choice between ”G” and “C” plainly needed to be made when the syllable “le” was discarded, if name relationship be maintained. In view of his children’s accustomed use of “C”, but more especially of the far more important fact that “C” was the letter used in the records of their baptism, scarcely could Philip do otherwise than turn to “C” when having his name recorded at Hopkinton where “le” was no longer to be written with it. Thus the land at Hopkinton which was to become his children’s inheritance was recorded with Philip’s name spelled(13) Cody, instead of the spelling Gody(14) of his inherited name.

  1. Evidence of this elsewhere presented.
  2. Made six years after buying a home at Beverly.
  3. Arbitrarily written by the then recorder who was also minister of the church, see above for consideration and evidence of this.
  4. Elsewhere presented.
  5. See records of the Beverly church of that time.
  6. As suggested by his purchase of a piece of land in vicinity of Beverly, as above presented.
  7. At first arbitrarily written and later a compromise spelling—see presented.
  8. As shown by Beverly record above quoted.
  9. See the record of this in the Beverly church records of that time.
  10. As above quoted.
  11. See above for evidence that the family commonly used the “le” while residents of Beverly.
  12. As evidenced that the children commonly used the “C” spelling of their name during the years at Beverly, see two records entered in the Beverly town-book some years before the family left Beverly, one of date registering the intentions of marriage of John, the eldest son (then 21 years of age) and the other a list of the six children of Philip Martha by given name and birthdate, probably of date 1715—in both these town records the name is written Lecody.
  13. Though in some of the Hopkinton records the most important of is his will there was an “a” inserted, making it Coady. For the why of we can only venture a guess.
  14. Evidence that Philip continued the “g” spelling of his name at Beverly until his property there had been sold we have in two deeds, one for sale of his Beverly home three years after the Hopkinton record when the “le” discarded and the other five years later; in both of these deeds as above quoted, his name was written Gody.
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The International Cody Family Association