Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'N' is for Names and Naming Patterns

I am, by turns, amused and amazed at the way my family have re-used names through the generations and also the strange and exotic ones that occasionally took their fancy!

Of course, it's not unreasonable to name children after their parents - I have several lines who named their first-born sons after the father, through several generations. I've had to resort to numbering them (e.g John Smith I, John Smith II, III, IV....etc) to try to keep them in order!

A lot of my family seem to have followed the traditional naming patterns pertaining to Scottish folklore:

1st son named after father's father
2nd son named after mother's father
3rd son named after father
1st daughter named after mother's mother
2nd daughter named after father's mother
3rd daughter named after mother

Applying this principle has come in useful on occasion, when trying to track down elusive records where the forename has been unknown, but it's not infallible!

My maternal Grandfather was named Joseph Edward Beattie - the exact name of his father - but he was the fourth son and middle sibling of a family of fifteen; it begs the question why his parents decided to wait until his arrival in order to pass on the father's full name?  Also, most of Grandad's siblings named one of their respective sons Joseph Edward, too. The two names carry on being used in successive generations, no wonder I need some kind of number reference to try to keep track of them!

Then there are the 'exotic' names - among my favourites are 'Euphemia', 'Isabella', 'Robertina' - rather grand names for the children of simple tradesmen and 'ag labs' (agricultural labourers)!

There's also a penchant for using surnames of previous generations as a middle name (e.g. Donald Davidson Beattie)  That helps when trying to corroborate family relationships, or gathering in the 'missing links' - for years I wondered why the name 'Caldwell' was used as my paternal Grandmother's middle name, until I came across some cousins, several times-removed, whose surname was Caldwell. Mystery solved!

However, I think my 2XGreat Grandmother Elspeth was having a laugh: her father's name was David Johnston and then she goes and marries John Davidson - I am constantly mixing them up! ;-)


  1. Trying to keep up with names can be a geological nightmare. I keep trying that.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

  2. Sounds like your family was the exception to the Scottish rule!

    Real mavericks they were, Sue!

    Chuck at Apocalypse Now

  3. We've got several recurring names in our tree too. My favourite is Drucilla, which was obviously popular for about four generations.

  4. We have many reoccurring names in our family.Thank goodness for the middle name /initial or we'd never know who we were talking about!

  5. I have been trying to sort out my paternal grandmother's family, and the repeating names are driving me crazy!

  6. I have my mother's maiden name - Graham - as a middle name. Several of my cousins have their mother's maiden names as middles. Most of the names that pass down are women's names in my family. There is a dearth of sons having sons.