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Pierce Mothershead Family Ties

Common Naming Patterns

Through the centuries people have often chosen names for their children to honor relatives (dead or living) or a highly respected person. For example, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Sterling Price are all given names that are found among my ancestors. The first two I'm sure you recognize; the third man, Sterling Price, was a General in the Civil War one of my ancestors served under. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, parents tended to follow a specific pattern if naming their children for a family member.

There were also, of course, exceptions so this can not be taken as hard and fast proof that a particular person is named for a particular forebearer, nor is it proof of birth order. Please also keep in mind that if a child died young, it was very common for the next child born to be given the name of the one who died. So it would be quite possible for a Veranda Jane DOE to be born 1750 and again in 1756 in the same family. The first girl dies in 1752; when another daughter was born in 1756 they gave the new daughter the same name as the first.

The usual pattern was:

Eldest son - father's father
Second son - mother's father
Third son - father
Fourth son - father's oldest brother
Fifth son - father's second oldest brother, or mother's oldest brother

Eldest daughter - mother's mother
Second daughter - father's mother
Third daughter - mother
Fourth daughter - mother's oldest sister
Fifth daughter - mother's second oldest sister, or father's oldest sister


Nicknames can be another small stumbling block when trying to trace ancestor's. The links below help with common nicknames.