Ever ask your parents how you were named? In their day, there were fewer unusual or unique names as most children were named after a family member probably a grandparent or parent to honor them. Usually the first son was named after his father then called by some nickname like Junior or Sonny. One of the daughters would be named after the mom. It took the birth of almost six children, three male and three female, before the parents could finally select a new name of their own choice. Then there were their brother’s and sister’s names to consider.
It made for lots of confusion when everyone got together or signed legal documents with many relatives sharing the same name but born in different generations. Middle names were added to distinguish individuals with the same first name. Often maiden names were used for middle names that otherwise would be lost in family genealogical records. Thus, my ancestor John McGuckin Malin was named after his mother Sarah McGuckin.
Another common tradition was to name your child after a prominent person in local or national history. In my family I have several examples: Christopher Columbus Johnson, John Quincy Adams Johnson, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, and George Washington Johnson are just a few. Popular names taken from biblical characters were used for some of my male ancestors: Elijah Malin and Noah Smith. Biblical names for girls popular were: Patience, Charity, Faith or Chastity. Try naming a child today one of those names.
After all the work of naming a child, then parents sometimes used a nickname. First names were shortened: William became Bill, Richard––Dick, Robert––Bob, and James––Jimmy. Girl’s nicknames were more interesting as Elizabeth became Beth or Liz or Eliza or Betsy, Susanna became Sue or Susie, and Virginia––Jenny. Amelia became Amy, Margaret––Meg, Faith––Fay, and Katherine was called Katie. Henrietta became Etta, Sarah––Sally, Mary––Molly or Polly or just May. Or the nickname could have nothing to do with the given name like: Butch, Buddy or Red.
How do you feel about your name or nickname? Have you told your family how you were named or how you choose their names? What unusual family names do you have? Utahans are known to give their children strange two syllable names like LaPrell, RaNae, LaGene or DuWayne to name just a few. I’ll bet your grandkids have unusual first names and unique spellings.