Friday, May 10, 2013

Naming Patterns Before the 20th c

When searching for ancestors traditional naming patterns can be a useful aid. However, these rules were not rigidly adhered to at all times and their usage dwindled as the 19th c progressed.

Eldest son named after Paternal grandfather
Second son after Maternal grandfather
Third son after Father
Eldest dau after Maternal grandmother
Second dau after Paternal grandmother
Third dau after Mother

The above pattern was not strictly followed in certain circumstances: if a mother died in childbirth, and there were subsequent offspring of a second marriage ... or if there were twins ... or if one child died young and another was given the same name when it was born subsequently.

Women in Scotland never lost their maiden name e.g. in court cases they would always be Mary Brown (maiden surname). In death registration they were always indexed under married and maiden name (if maiden name was known to the informant). On death of husband sometimes a widow would revert to her maiden name ... not common but more usual than you might think. On all legal documents i.e. wills, testaments, contracts, it would be very unusual NOT to have both of her names i.e. ‘This is the last testament of Mary Brown Smith currently residing at ....’ etc. and if she had been married twice - or thrice - it would say Mary Brown Smith or Macdonald or Hamilton.


Eldest son named after Father's father
Second son after Mother's father
Third son after Father
Fourth son after Father's eldest brother
Fifth son after Father's second eldest brother or mother's eldest brother
Eldest dau after Mother's mother
Second dau after Father's mother
Third dau after Mother
Fourth dau after Mother's eldest sister
Fifth dau after Mother's second eldest sister or father's eldest sister
Further children after other uncles and aunts, then names of the great-grandparents

Family group ca 1902: note the ladies' hats and the patriarchal beard, centre.

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