Have you noticed how European ancestors, particularly the British ones, often carried the same first names down through the family lines?
This is not by chance but more dictated by conventions that many adhered to in the 1700s to 1800s. Biblical names were not uncommon also, reflecting a family commitment to a certain faith, as were names that honoured Royalty or influential people such as Napoleon. In general though, family names honoured people in the direct family line. Naming conventions vary according to culture with some adopting slight changes according to gender, such as Francis and Frances. Others, particularly last names, reflected geographical names such as Victoria and can often be seen in the addition of “ton’ to the end of a place name indicating the place of origin. Occupational designations such as Miller stemmed from as early as the twelfth century.
With first names the following British conventions may assist in determining further generations:
- The eldest son was given the name of the father’s father (paternal grandfather)
- The second son was given the name of the mother’s father (maternal grandfather)
- The third son was given the name of the father, unless it had been used already
- The fourth son was given the name of his father’s oldest brother (oldest paternal uncle)
- The fifth son was given the name of his father’s second oldest brother, or of the mother’s oldest brother (second oldest paternal uncle or oldest maternal uncle)
- The eldest daughter was given the name of the mother’s mother (maternal grandmother)
- The second daughter was given the name of the father’s mother (paternal grandmother)
- The third daughter was given the name of the mother, unless it had already been used
- The fourth daughter was given the name of the mother’s oldest sister (oldest maternal aunt)
- The fifth daughter was given the name of the mother’s second oldest sister, or of the father’s oldest sister (second oldest maternal aunt or the oldest paternal aunt)
Later children were given the names of other relatives of both parents, especially if they had died young or had no children of their own. If a child died in infancy, often the parents would name the next child of the same gender with the same name as the deceased child.
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