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One night recently, www was thinking about George 'Joris' Woolsey and Rebecca Cornell, our immigrant ancestors and began to wonder about the naming pattern within this family, who settled at New Amsterdam and then at Jamaica, Long Island, New York.
George 'Joris' Woolsey was named after his father George Wolsey, Sr.
Rebecca Cornell was named after her mother Rebecca Griggs Cornell.
        1. Sarah, their first daughter, was named after Rebecca's oldest sister, Sarah Cornell.
        2. George, their first son, was named after his paternal grandfather, George Wolsey, Sr.
        3. Thomas, their 2nd son, was named after his maternal grandfather, Thomas Cornell, Sr.
        4. Rebecca, their 2nd daughter, was named after her maternal grandmother, Rebecca Briggs Cornell.
        5. John, their 3rd son, was named after his father's older brother John Wolsey.
        6. Mary, their 3rd daughter, was named after her mother's younger sister, Mary Cornell.
        7. William, their 4th son, was named after his paternal great-grandfather, William Wolsey.
        8. Mary, their 4th daughter, was named after her older, deceased sister, Mary Woolsey, which was common, both in the Dutch tradition and in the English tradition.
From the above family we can see that the Woolseys followed, in a general way, parts of both the Dutch tradition and the English tradition, but with major innovations, starting with their first child, Sarah, who was named after her mother's oldest sister, which if the English tradition really held, would be for the 4th daughter.
Then their next children, the two sons George and Thomas, were named after the traditions of both the Dutch and English, George, their first son, was named after his paternal grandfather, George Wolsey, Sr. and their 2nd son, Thomas, was named after his maternal grandfather, Thomas Cornell, Sr.
If George 'Joris' and Rebecca followed the strict English custom, they would have named their next daughter after George 'Joris's mother Frances, but this daughter Rebecca was named after her maternal grandmother, Rebecca Briggs Cornell.
From here on, both the Dutch and English naming patterns were largely ignored, as their 3rd son, John, was named after his father's older brother John Wolsey.
Hence Mary, their 3rd daughter, was named after her mother's younger sister, Mary Cornell. She died as a very young girl and the youngest Woolsey child, also named Mary was named in her honor, keeping with both the Dutch and English traditions.
And William Woolsey, who also died early, was named for his paternal great-grandfather William Wolsey who married Elizabeth Stanhoe and had a large family, which he named in his 21 page will. The reader's attention is directed to the Woolsey Coat of Arms pages for his arms and for the arms of Elizabeth Stanhoe.


In the old days it was very usual to name the first born son after the paternal grandfather, and the first born daughter to the maternal grandmother. The second son got the name of the other grandfather, and so on. You will notice that the classical model provides two names for sons and two for daughters. Often that was enough. If a child died at an early age, the next baby of the same sex got the first name of his deceased sibling. A family with only daughters maybe gave the third girl the female version of her grandfather's first name.
Male or female
Female names are often easy recognizable by the suffix -je or -a. Maartje, Trijntje, Neeltje, Cornelia, Maria and Anna are all women names. Several names have a male and a female version:
Cornelis or Kees - Cornelia, Cornelisje or Neeltje 
Johannes or Jan - Johanna or Jantje 
Nicolaas or Klaas - Klaasje or Klasina 
Hendrik - Hendrika or Hendrikje 
Wilhelmus or Willem - Wilhelmina or Willempje

How Trijntje became Kate
Dutch emigrants sometimes changed their first names. Of course the male name Thijs was not very practical in the USA, because nobody can pronounce the Dutch vowel ij properly. So Thijs became probably Matthew. This may not sound logical to you, but Thijs is an abbreviation of Matthijs, and that is Matthew in English. But other people just chose an English name, with no relation at all to their original name.
To conclude a short list to assist you. First the Dutch forms, followed by English names:
Jan - John 
Petrus, Pieter, Piet - Peter, Pete 
Thijs, Matthijs - Matthew Dirk - Richard 
Klaas, Niek - Nicholas, Nick 
Teunis - Anthony 
Hendrik - Henry Catharina, Trijntje, Kaat - Catherine, Kathryn, Kate 
Elisabeth, Bets, Bep, Lijsbet - Elisabeth, Liz Maria, Maartje, Marie, Rie - Mary

Researching Your Dutch Ancestors

by Miriam Klaassen

The best known example of naming children is when a child is named after it's grandparent. But other forms of naming are possible too. Most families followed the following naming conventions:
  1. In the case where one of the parents was a widower or widow, the first child of the gender of the deceased spouse was named after that spouse.
            The two eldest boys were named after the grandfathers and the two eldest girls were named after the grandmothers. In some regions only deceased grandparents were named. In most regions, the paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were named first.
  2. If the first three children are all boys, sometimes a male version of the grandmother's name is given to the third boy. If enough children are born, grandmother may have a girl named after her as well. The same is true vice versa, if the first three children are all girls.
        Children that had died were named. So if one son called Jan Hendrik died, the next one born would be called Jan Hendrik as well. Usually, if you see two children with the same name, the oldest one died before the youngest one was born. Be careful however, because if the two grandparents had the same first name, sometimes two children who were named after them ended up with the same first and last name! If all the grandparents, previous spouses and deceased children were named, siblings of the parents were named after, especially the ones who had died already.
Yvette's Dutch Genealogy Homepage

Dutch Customs of Child Names
Most Dutch families followed certain customs of child naming. The two eldest sons were named for the grandfathers, the paternal one first unless the maternal one had some distinctive social position, had more money or was deceased. Sometimes the first son was named for the mother's first husband if she were a widow. The two eldest daughters were named for the grandmothers. Some families alternated with the first son being named after the paternal grandfather, the first daughter after the maternal grandmother, but this is not as common. If a child died, almost always the next child of the same sex was given the same name.

English Naming Traditions
Olive Tree Genealogy & Dutch Names & Nicknames and their English Equivalent

1st son = father's father
2nd son = mother's father
3rd son = father
4th son = father's 2nd oldest brother or mother's oldest brother

Naming Traditions

At Baptism,(Christening) the child is given two names in addition to his surname. This custom was derived from the Roman Catholic and continued in the later Protestant sects. The First Name of the child was usually a spiritual name, taken from a favourite saint. The Second name was the child's name to be used in everyday life. Often you will see a family of eight children, with all five of the male children being called John______Webster, John ______ Webster, etc. Three girls in the same family would be called Maria_______Webster, Maria_______ Webster, Maria ____ Webster. The only discriminating feature besides the actual Date of Birth will be what we refer to as the middle name. So, in studying this family group, look at the Fritz, Conrad, Wilhelm, Peter, or George.-----you'll see Anna, Kirsten, and Catharina. The reason this is significant, is that if you are looking at legal documents, you may find a Baptism record with John Conrad Webster and continue with your search looking for and FINDING John Webster. He will be the wrong ancestor! You should have been looking for Conrad Webster all along, as that is how he is referred to in every legal document signed or written about him. That "John Webster" who was so easy to find ( because, of course, he's NOT the one you need.) has a spiritual/first name of Phillip as do the rest of his brothers.

English Naming Traditions

Main Index

Wilford Whitaker

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