What’s In A Name?

Genealogists often spend a lot of time concentrating on reseraching people with the same surname. While surnames are important for genealogical research because they connect members of the same family, it is interesting to look at first names too. First names, or given names as they are often called, are just that – the name that a child is given by their parents when they are born.

In the past, there were many children that were given the names of their ancestors. In some cultures, there was even a precise formula for naming children. For example, in the 1700’s and 1800’s in England, the first son was named after the father’s father. If there was another son, he was named after the mother’s father. A third son would be named after his father, and if there were a fourth son, he was named after his father’s eldest brother. The names of daughters were selected in a similar fashion. The first daughter was named after her mother’s mother, the second after her father’s mother. A third daughter was named after her mother and a fourth daughter was named after her mother’s eldest sister.

While naming patterns may not be as popular today, many children are given names of people in their family. Middle names may also come from someone in the family tree. I know that I am named after a female ancestor, but I am not sure exactly whom (except that her name was Sara). It will be interesting to find out through my genealogical research what she was like as a person, and whether I have any similar traits.

Today’s parents often give a great deal of thought to naming their babies. We choose from family names, names that have meanings that we like, unique names, even names of celebrities or their children. The name must not only sound nice with the middle and last name but must also be something that will be difficult for other children to poke fun at. Let’s also not forget that the name must “fit” the child – the name that you agree on months before your little one’s arrival may not seem right for them when they arrive.

At the time that my husband and I were were choosing names for our baby, we did not know the baby’s gender. Perhaps we might have subconsciously, though, because we found it much easier to agree on a boy’s name than a girl’s name and we ended up having a boy. We tossed around a few ideas for names, and decided that both of us like Dylan the most. We chose my father’s name, James, as Dylan’s middle name. This was very important to me, not only because my dad is awesome, but because my father has no sons and my son, his only grandson, has my husband’s last name.

How did you get your name?