Pregnant Mom's Viral Search for Baby Name in Cemetery Is Complete! Find Out the Unique Name She Chose Off a Grave

Haley Hodge's daughter will be named after a late stranger buried in a North Carolina graveyard

<p>Courtesy of Haley Hodge</p> Haley Hodge looking for her baby

Courtesy of Haley Hodge

Haley Hodge looking for her baby's name at a cemetery
  • In May, Haley Hodge received some criticism after sharing her search for baby names in cemeteries. Her viral TikTok reached 2.7 viewers on the app

  • This month, Hodge revealed her decision to call her baby Salem, a name she and her family found on a late veteran's headstone at a North Carolina cemetery

  • The expecting content creator — who is already mom to three other kids — previously spoke to PEOPLE and defended her unusual way of finding name inspiration

After her search for a baby name sparked some criticism online, Haley Hodge has finally chosen a name for her little one on the way. And yes, it's one she found in a cemetery.

In May, Hodge went viral for her family's atypical name-seeking strategy. One of her TikToks filmed while exploring a cemetery reached 2.7 million viewers and stirred up a host of mixed reactions. Some were unnerved by the idea of taking inspiration from the dead, while others supported Hodge's outside-the-box thinking.

Hodge and her husband, Rivers, found their future child's name on a headstone. Last week, the expecting mom of three — and soon-to-be four — posted a TikTok to announce that her daughter will be called Salem. In the video's overlaying text, Hodge shared that the name means "peaceful, safe" and "complete."

As far as the name went my favorite has been Salem since I saw the one in the graveyard. My husbands favorite was Sailer (which we also found in a graveyard). However, we did a tie breaker by having all of our family vote on their favorite.

The TikTok creator also detailed why Salem stood out while they were looking for ideas at the Old Smithville Burying Ground in Southport, North Carolina. According to her post, the moniker was inspired by a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who fought in World War II, per his engraved headstone.

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Writing over mixed footage of herself at the cemetery and on the beach, Hodge noted a "family water connection" by her daughter being named after the Salem River, which is a tributary of the Delaware River.

"Everyone in my direct family has some type of water-related name. We have a Rivers, Rains, Brooks and Banks already," Hodge tells PEOPLE. "It's a bit of a stretch but I was able to find a little tie between Salem and water."

Her video continued with details about her baby's namesake, who died in 1992: "Our lives missed overlapping by about 8 months. He was married and did not have any children of his own," she shared, adding, "But hopefully he will be okay with being an honorary grandpa to our baby girl."

She concluded her TikTok with a shot of the late Salem's headstone, where the family laid down flowers. In overlaying text, the pregnant mom wrote, "Thank you, Salem, for inspiring us to bring new life to your name."

The North Carolina-based mom tells PEOPLE that she's loved the name Salem since she first saw it at the graveyard. Her husband liked Sailer, another cemetery spotted-name, but the rest of their family voted in Hodge's favor as a tie-breaker.

Plus, they had some A-list advice that they couldn't ignore. Hodge's viral fame caught the attention of one major Hollywood star, who shared her helpful naming input on a Skype call set to air soon on the celebrity's talk show.

"She chose Salem and I thought, 'How cool, this baby will have such an incredible story behind her name,'" says Hodge. "Not only did we find it in a unique way but one of my favorite celebrities helped choose it too! What a fun fact my baby will have in her future!"

Per her TikTok's caption, the family has yet to decide on a middle name for their daughter, though Hodge tells PEOPLE she wants to follow Salem with something more directly water-related, "like Harbor," she says.

<p>Courtesy of Haley Hodge</p> Pregnant Haley Hodge poses at the Old Smithville Burying Ground in Southport, North Carolina

Courtesy of Haley Hodge

Pregnant Haley Hodge poses at the Old Smithville Burying Ground in Southport, North Carolina

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When Hodge first shared videos from her cemetery search on TikTok, several social media users were unnerved by the spooky sentiment. However she defended her baby name search to PEOPLE, explaining that she has never felt uncomfortable at burial sites.

“I just saw it as I'm going to the place where people's grandparents are, their best friends, loved ones. I don't see it as a place of evil,” the content creator said at the time. “These are people who lived lives and hopefully good lives and were good people.”

Some comments referenced superstitions warning against pregnant women visiting cemeteries. Hodge said she anticipated some backlash based on differing cultural regards for death, but personally she's not haunted by the idea of spending time near the deceased.

“If there was something like souls out there, I don't think they are confined just to a cemetery,” she told PEOPLE in May. “We have babies above a morgue at a hospital, if you deliver at a hospital, so we're kind of surrounded by it.”

<p>Courtesy of Haley Hodge</p> Haley Hodge with her kids looking for names at a cemetery

Courtesy of Haley Hodge

Haley Hodge with her kids looking for names at a cemetery

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With her first three kids — 10-year-old daughter Finley and sons Banks, 1, and Crew, 3 — Hodge said she looked for names in more traditional places, often writing down monikers she heard mentioned on television. This time around, she hoped to give her daughter an interesting story to share when asked about her origins.

Similarly, Hodge told PEOPLE that she opted to document the family’s cemetery adventure on camera so she could share it with her future daughter one day.

“I wasn't even going to post [the videos],” she explains, though the pregnant mom eventually decided to upload her naming process for the world to appreciate. “I was like, "You know what? This is kind of cool to share’ … I knew it was going to spark some attention, being different.”

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