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Family Naming Conventions Can Help With Brick Walls

By DD / October 21, 2015

Those brick walls can seem daunting when you think you have checked out every lead. Looking for patterns in family naming schemes can help with those educated guesses. Various cultures have their own naming conventions. It was common in Victorian England for the first name of the first male child to be named after the father’s father. The second male child was named after the mother’s father. The third male child was named after the father. The first female child was named after the mother’s mother and the second female child is named after the father’s mother and the third female was named after the mother.
In Ireland, the tradition was similar but the first male was named after the fathers father, the second after the mothers father, the 3rd son was named after the father, the 4th named after the father oldest brother. Then it could be the fathers second brother or the mothers father or oldest brother. In Scotland, it was common for the eldest son to be named after the mothers father, then the second son named after the fathers father. The eldest daughter would be named after the father’s mother then the second daughter named after the mothers mother. In some regions, the paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were names used first. In Costa Rica many years ago, it was common for children to get three or four names, and it was a custom to name children after their corresponding saints, depending on the day they were born.
You can use this information to take a reasonable guess as to the first names of the parents and grandparents if you know the names and order of birth of all the children and the naming convention typical for the family. Of course this can vary and things would interrupt the pattern. Often if a baby died, they would give the next baby the same name.
Keep an eye out for middle names that seem like surnames. It became common to use maiden names as middle names in the early 1900’s. Perhaps you have identified a wife’s name, but don’t know her maiden name. Look to the middle names of her sons. Very often a son will be give the mother’s maiden name as their middle name.
Talk to older relatives and see if they are familiar with naming patterns in your family. Knowing these patterns could help break through those brick walls.

About the author

DD

I found my birth family after 40 years of looking for them. I used DNA tests, software to sort DNA match results, family trees, contacting DNA matches and several website tools. We want to provide you a "one stop shop" with all your resources to help YOU find YOUR family.

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