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Genealogy Tip of the Day
Naming Patterns and Customs
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Naming patterns may provide important clues in family history research. People of all countries tend to name children after other family members, often using an unwritten, but traditional formula. In Ireland, as in many other countries, the first-born son was generally named after the paternal grandfather, and the first daughter after the maternal grandmother. This was an especially common practice during the 19th century and earlier. Surnames in some Scandinavian countries are indicative of a child's parentage - the Swedish surname Johannson, for example, indicates the "son of Johann." Surname endings can even indicate the country of origin. The -son ending mentioned above is typically Swedish, while -sen (Jensen) is more likely to be Danish or Norwegian.

Middle names can also provide wonderful clues to ancestry. Children have often been given the mother's maiden name as a middle name to identify their ancestral ties. Or they may have been named after an uncle, aunt, or other more distant relative. French families frequently gave the father's name to a girl by changing one or two letters to a feminine form. You'll often find such family-derived names handed down from generation to generation.

The next time your genealogy research comes to a standstill, try looking at family names for patterns - the answer may have been right under your nose all along.

Naming Patterns in Different Countries and Cultures


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