Research Tip of the Week

Naming traditions

Names are an integral part of genealogy. Surnames, maiden names, given names, even middle names are important in genealogical research. They are one of the biggest things that help us find our ancestors in records through the ages.

In some cultures, beyond just being a personal identifier, names can provide genealogical clues. This week my tip is about using cultural naming traditions in genealogical research when possible.

One example of a naming tradition is in families where the first son is named after his father. It is common knowledge that if an individual has a Jr, II, III, etc. behind their name that they are named after their father. Even non genealogical inclined individuals are able to quickly map out that person’s pedigree by looking at that information.

What are some less well-known naming traditions?

Scottish

Not all families with Scottish roots will follow these traditions but they are common. In cases where the tradition is followed it can provide clues to several generations on both sides of a family.

  • 1st son – named after father’s father
  • 2nd son – named after mother father
  • 3rd son – named after father
  • 4th son – named after father’s brother
  • 1st daughter – named after mother’s mother
  • 2nd daughter – named after father’s mother
  • 3rd daughter – named after mother
  • 4th daughter- named after mother’s sister

Ashkenazi Jewish

Ashkenazi Jewish families sometimes follow a naming tradition of naming babies after recently deceased relatives. In cases where this tradition is followed it can sometimes provide clues to the date of death of relatives.

Spanish

Spanish naming traditions make it easy to follow the maiden names of female ancestors. Women kept married names when they married. Children born to the marriage took the surname of both parents. The father’s surname is first and the mother’s surname is second. This tradition is also followed in most Latin American cultures.

These are just a few examples of instances where naming traditions can provide genealogical clues.

What are some naming traditions that you have discovered in your research?

2 replies »

  1. The Ashkenazi naming patterns have proven to be both helpful and confusing! There are often multiple grandchildren named for the same deceased grandparent or great-grandparent, making it hard to sort out who is who. But overall it is a help because without last names, the best way to link a child to a family is through their patronymic.

    Liked by 1 person

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