Saturday, 6 July 2013

Traditional English naming pattern

Given names or the first name of a baby born today is often thought deeply about by the parents-to-be for the whole nine months before the birth. We name our children after friends, family, famous people, choose name we like, which sound good with our surnames, try to pick something unique, etc. But about 200 years ago things were very different, there was a "traditional" naming pattern which many families (but not all!) followed. The traditional naming pattern used in England in the 1700s and early 1800s was:

1st son named after father's father (paternal grandfather)
2nd son named after the mother's father (maternal grandfather)
3rd son after the father
4th son after the father's eldest brother (eldest paternal uncle)
5th son after the mother's eldest brother (eldest maternal uncle)

1st daughter named after mother's mother (maternal grandmother)
2nd daughter named after father's mother (paternal grandmother)
3rd daughter after mother
4th daughter after mother's eldest sister (eldest maternal aunt)
5th daughter after father's eldest sister (eldest paternal aunt)

Common exceptions are found:
  • Occasionally the father or grandfather's name may be gender changed for the daughters - eg Roberta for Robert, Edwina for Edwin etc.
  • The naming pattern may have not been used if the family had a significant friend or relative whom they wished name their child after, eg a good friend or an aunt who played a significant role in the life of the mother or father.
  • The opposite of the latter may have been a "strained" family relationships between a family members in which they chose not to name a child after, so they skipped a family members name.
  • Locational variations can be found.
  • Sometimes families had their own naming pattern.
  • Occasionally there was an unusual name in the family which was carried through the generations, such as Hephzibah or Mordecai.

I cannot say that I have noticed this naming pattern followed in my family's but perhaps I have not gone back quite far enough with my research to notice the patterns.

In the Seddon family which is part of my Davidson ancestry I notice that the first born children to John and Elizabeth Seddon, were named after the parents, John and Elizabeth, the grandfather's name, Mordecai, was used for the 3rd and 5th born son. Presumably the first son named Mordecai passed away, but it is interesting as the given name "Mordecai" in this family pops up in nearly every generation for 3 or 4 generations. (To find out more about the Seddon family see my Davidson page - Chapter 11).

Also in my Davidson family, in 4 generations the first born son was given the first name "John", so whether they were following a different naming pattern or just wanted to name the first born of each generation after the father, or that it had become a family tradition, it would be interesting to know. (More can be read about my Davidson family on the Davidson Page of this blog).

Does anyone have any interesting naming patterns in their families which they can follow down the generations? If you do I would be really interested to hear from you.

Some of this information came from the website: DiggingForAncestors

Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan

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