Really pleased to have found your wonderful site. It has been of huge use already.
I have to create a 26 year old woman in the New Forest in 1502. She is Martha to me but if this name does not fit then period suggestions would be welcome. She is married with Children and lives a peasant or commoners life. I have some ideas how she and her family might support themselves but am keen to hear of unusual or peculiarly local crafts or trades that might sustain them. I think I am going to find it quite hard to write her speech. Should I concern myself with "Tudor talk" or try to find the oldest available indication of "Forest/Hampshire talk".
Martha does occur as a Christian name in England in the Tudor period, though it was far less common than other names. If you want an excellent reference source for names from the Tudor era, see "Names and Naming Patterns in England, 1538 - 1700," by Scott Smith-Bannister (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). You would probably have to visit a university library to find a copy, however. For an excellent recent study of the kinds of work that women engaged in during the period, see "Working Women in English Society, 1300-1620" by Marjorie K. McIntosh (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
Yonks ago I found online a paper, which listed the most popular Tudor names, drawn from records somewhere in the West Midlands. It was from after it became mandatory in England to write that stuff down, don't recall exact year, mid-Tudor period. I copied/pasted it for future reference.
Martha was way down the girls' names, tied with Ursula and Judith, with a grand total of 3 of each being registered. So it was used, but rarely. The most popular were Elizabeth, Anne, Joan, Margaret, Alice, Mary, Agnes, Catherine, Jane, and Dorothy.
Most popular boys' names were John, Thomas, William, Richard (ha! take that, Tudors!), Robert, Henry, George, Nicholas, James, and Francis.
Please DO NOT overdo it with archaic dialogue! I tried that once, when That Travesty on Showtime was on, and I vowed to pen an historically accurate Tudor novel (fail; one of the real-life characters got away from me and demanded a better ending than Henry gave him). My group of readers were unanimous that I needed to edit the dialogue to more modern speech because it was just too distracting.
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