Robert M. Rennick, 78, of Prestonsburg, an authority on Kentucky place names and post offices, died Thursday at Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg.
Mr. Rennick wrote a number of books, including Kentucky Place Names and From Red Hot to Monkey's Eyebrow: Unusual Kentucky Place Names, as well as a series on post offices in various regions of the state.
Mr. Rennick was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and taught at a number of colleges and universities before moving to Kentucky in 1970, when he took a position at Prestonsburg Community College.
Mr. Rennick's wife, Elizabeth Rennick, said he had an avid interest in folklore, and in the 1960s and 1970s became interested in people's names, such as "strange combinations, like Rosie Bottom, and people who wanted to change their names, like Adolf Jones after the second world war."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Elizabeth Rennick said she initially suggested that her husband begin researching the origins of place names, and he took the idea and ran with it after they moved to Kentucky.
In addition to visiting libraries and studying old maps, he traveled the state, interviewing people about the origins of the names of the communities where they lived.
"The only way to study the place is to go to the site and see what's there and ask the people who live in that area about the history," he said in a 1997 Herald-Leader interview.
Mr. Rennick was employed by the state Division of Licensing and Regulations from 1972 until his retirement in 1997. He had recently served as a consultant in cooperation with Morehead State University on a project to add names to the federal Geographical Names Information System database.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Rennick is survived by a sister, Marjorie Rennick Cohen, of Madison, Conn.
He was buried Sunday in Gethsemane Gardens in Prestonsburg.