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Naming Systems

It is not unusual in genealogical research, in all countries, to find certain families using a given name again and again, generation after generation. While naming patterns are never conclusive and vary from culture to culture and region to region, there are some standards which were prevalent throughout most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Several different patters are outlined here, including

  Standard Naming Pattern (1700 - 1850)
  Old Jones Naming Pattern
  19th Century Naming Pattern
  Scottish/Irish and early Dutch Naming Pattern (1700 - 1800)
  Irish Naming Pattern (1800s)
  Italian Naming Pattern
  German Naming Pattern
  Welsh Naming Patterns
  Colonial American Naming Patterns

People being what they are, there were all sorts of variations, some covered by rules and some by family decision.

It was customary to name the next daughter/son born within a second marriage for the deceased husband/wife. If a father died before his child was born, the child was often named for him. If a mother died in childbirth, that child, if a girl, was usually named for the mother. It was common to 'replace' a child that died by giving the next child of that gender the same name. This is a useful way of dating deaths.

Other modifications to the model would be applied were the naming pattern was already satisfied. For instance if the Mothers Name was Martha, and her mothers name was Martha, the the third daughter may be given the mothers middle name, or alternatively move straight to the fourth daughter pattern.

Standard Naming Pattern 1700 - 1850
The standard naming pattern was commonly used in england and the americas

first son father's father   first daughter mother's mother
second son mother's father   second daughter father's mother
third son father's name   third daughter mother
fourth son father's eldest brother   fourth daughter mother's eldest sister
fifth son father's second oldest brother or mother's eldest brother   fifth daughter mothers second eldest sister or fathers eldest sister


Old Jones Naming Pattern
This pattern is a minor variation on the Standard English Naming Pattern. This model was used quite extensively by many ex-slaves after emancipation.

first son father's father   first daughter mother's mother
second son mother's father   second daughter father's mother
third son father's name   third daughter mother
fourth+ son fathers favorite brother or friend   fourth+ daughter mothers favorite sister or friend

19th Century Naming Patterns
An extended modification to the Standard English Pattern

first son paternal grandfather   first daughter maternal grandmother
second son maternal grandfather   second daughter paternal grandmother
third son father's paternal grandfather   third daughter mother or for mother's maternal grandmother
fourth son father's oldest brother or mother's paternal grandfather   fourth daughter mother's oldest sister or for father's paternal grandmother
fifth son mother's eldest brother or father's maternal grandfather   fifth daughter father's eldest sister or for mother's paternal grandmother
sixth son father's second oldest brother or for mother's maternal grandfather   sixth daughter mother's second oldest sister or for father's paternal grandmother

Scots/Irish and early Dutch Naming Pattern 1700 - 1800
This Scottish naming patterns are outlined in the book
"In Search of Scottish Ancestry". The basic naming pattern used by Scots/Irish is based on the English pattern. The Scottish tended to stick to one of two accepted naming pattern more rigidly than other nationalities.

first son paternal grandfather   first daughter maternal grandmother
second son maternal grandfather   second daughter paternal grandmother
third son father   third daughter mother
fourth+ son other family members   fourth+ daughter other family members

This variation was common in Scotland, particularly in the highland areas.

first son maternal grandfather   first daughter paternal grandmother
second son paternal grandfather   second daughter maternal grandmother
third son father   third daughter mother
fourth+ son other family members   fourth+ daughter other family members


Irish 1800's
The irish model is consistent with the Standard Naming pattern for the first two sons and daughter. For the third child of each gender onward, alternate names are used, based on the Grandmother's, Grandfather's, Mother's, Aunt's, and Uncle's names.

first son full name of paternal grandfather   first daughter full name of paternal grandmother
second son full name of maternal grandfather   second daughter full name of maternal grandmother


Italian Naming Pattern
This is one of the only naming patterns where the fathers and mothers names are not used

first son paternal grandfather   first daughter paternal grandmother
second son maternal grandfather   second daughter maternal grandmother
third son father's oldest brother   third daughter father's eldest sister
fourth son mother's eldest brother   fourth daughter mother's oldest sister


German Naming Patterns
In German families, the researcher might notice a few variations from the English pattern listed above. In German families, it was customary to give, at baptism, two names. The first was a spiritual or a saint's name in honor of a favorite saint. The second or middle name was the name the person was known by within the family. For example, you may see in one family a Johann Adam, Johann George, Johann Jacob Hetzel and some favorite female names were Anna Barbara and Anna Margaret Hetzel. It was also common practice in some German families to add the suffix "in" or "en", added to the end of a name, such as Anna Maria Hetzelin denoted female, often an unmarried female.

There are three common naming patterns used by German families. Whenever a duplicate name occurred in these patterns, the next name in the series was used. If a child died in infancy the name was often reused for the next child of the same gender. A rare twist occurred sometimes. A childís name would be reused when a spouse died and the surviving spouse remarried and had more children with the next spouse.

Pattern A
first son father's father   first daughter father's mother
second son mother's father   second daughter mother's mother
third son father   third daughter mother
fourth son fatherís paternal grandfather   fourth daughter fatherís paternal grandmother
fifth son mothersís paternal grandfather   fifth daughter mothersís paternal grandmother
sixth son fatherís maternal grandfather   sixth daughter fatherís maternal grandmother
seventh son mothersís maternal grandfather   seventh daughter mothersís maternal grandmother
Pattern B
first son father's father   first daughter fatherís mother
second son mother's father   second daughter motherís mother
third son father   third daughter mother
fourth son fatherís paternal grandfather   fourth daughter mothersís paternal grandmother
fifth son mothersís paternal grandfather   fifth daughter fatherís paternal grandmother
Pattern C
first son fatherís father   first daughter fatherís mother
second son motherís father   second daughter motherís mother
third son fatherís oldest brother   third daughter motherís oldest sister
fourth son father   fourth daughter mother


Welsh Naming Patterns
The Welsh used an ancient Patronymic naming system whereby the children of a marriage took their fathers forename as their surname. Women rarely took on their husband's family names, rather retaining their maiden names. This makes family history complex, but there was a commonly used naming standard in place that combined the use of christian names with patronymic surnames.

first son full name of paternal grandfather   first daughter full name of paternal grandmother
second son full name of maternal grandfather   second daughter full name of maternal grandmother
third son full name of father   third daughter full name of mother

Using this model makes it relatively easy to deduce the name of grandchildren from grandparents and vice versa. An example of this in practise would be Catherine Hughes (daughter of Hugh Hughes and Susan Thomas) married Richard William (son of William Prichard and Sarah Evans) the name of their children in order would be William Prichard, Hugh Hughes, Richard William, Sarah Evans, Susan Thomas and Catherine Hughes

Colonial American Naming Patterns
In the early colonies, the eldest son was generally given the same name as his father. The second son was often given the first name of one of his uncles, generally the father's oldest brother. (paternal usually, unless the father had no brothers, then a maternal uncle). The middle name was either his mother's maiden name, or grandmother's maiden name. In some cases, especially in larger familes, younger sons were given the paternal grandmothers maiden name as a given name.

Basically, as more children were born, more maiden names were used, but generally those in the direct line. Great grandmothers, great great grandmothers, etc. Children were often named after local heroes, or in the case of southern families, famous southern political personalities, such as Robert E. Lee, Francis Marion, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, etc, especially around the time of the civil war. Quite often these types of namings meant that the family naming patterns disappeared for a generation, but they generally returned in the next generation.

Women's names follow the same practices as men's names, but generally follow the maternal line. The eldest daughter is often named for her maternal grandmother. Once again maiden names are often used as middle names.

Sometimes, if the family is very large, you will only find one or two daughters with a maiden name as a middle name. Ironically, this naming pattern often makes it easy female ancestors, by taking the first name of the eldest daughter, and the middle name of the second son, you often get the grandmother.

Later, families devised their own system to ensure that their offspring inherited. ie., giving all children the same middle name, denoting the fact that all with that name could inherit, and not just the oldest son.

 

Check out some photos below

Photos

 

Related Links
§ Welsh Naming Practices
§
Welsh Patrynomics

 

 

 

 

 
Page Last Updated: June 13, 2006

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