26 January 2008

Naming Patterns

An article in today's Ottawa Citizen reminds me than one of the early challenges of being a parent is to choose a name for the child that satisfies all the grandparents. An early challenge for the grandparents is to keep smiling when you hear that choice.

Middle names are a good way to commemorate ancestors, if not as good as first names. Multiple middle names kept as many people as possible happy; the heir to the British throne is Charles Philip Arthur George. In my family we couldn't quite keep up with the royals; two middle names were used for each of us kids. When it came to researching my family history it came in really handy that one of mine has been used as a middle name for four generations, and before that it was a last name.

These days parents often look to celebrities for inspiration. That's not much help in genealogy, although it may give future generations of family historians insight into the parent's tastes in popular culture.

In days of yore traditional naming patterns often held sway. In England the first son was named for the father's father, the first daughter for the mother's mother. Then things were reversed, the second son named for the mother's father and the second daughter for the father's mother. After that the father and his brothers in birth order were used for sons, and the mother and her sisters for daughters.

In Scotland there was a naming pattern which honoured the parents father and mother first, as in England, but switched to names of grandparents rather than siblings.

Other cultures had different traditions, which caused a bit of a problem in mixed marriages.

The Ottawa Citizen article told the story of a Jewish family pressured to follow tradition and name a new child after a recently deceased and respected relative. Apparently it is no longer much in fashion, and was applied only in the Ashkenazic Jewish community. Sephardic Jews following a pattern much like the English.

If you're looking a specific naming pattern
try Googling "naming patterns" and the appropriate nationality or culture. You'll probably find several references available.

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