English pet name for Elizabeth [q.v.], from an ancient Hebrew name meaning "oath of God". Sometimes used independently of Elizabeth as a given name in its own right.
The most frequent spelling in the 1841 Census of Aberdeenshire was Betsey. Other spellings also occur which should all be found by Soundex search.
One correspondent has found Betsy as a pet name for Beatrice in the Scottish records and another has it for Elizabeth or for Bridget in a family of Irish extraction:
- "Bridget (was) on some statutory records Bridget and some Elizabeth. And for some years I actually thought I was looking for two separate individuals, ... having an unusual surname for this area helped. I then discovered most of the Bridgets in my family (1819-1930) although registered as Bridget were known as Elizabeth (or) Betsy. These names might be a family quirk but perhaps it could happen in other families of Irish extraction."
Another correspondent [LP], commenting on the plethora of pet names for her own name, Elizabeth, sent the following anecdote:
- "My Gran used to tell me this old saying -
'Elizabeth, Betsy, Betty & Bess, went out to seek a bird's nest. Which one got it?'
"It took me an age to realise that we were all the same people! I also got called Beth or Bethea. I was a very confused child!"