CORNWALL ONLINE PARISH CLERKS - helping bring the past alive

Resources - Family Naming Patterns

Over the centuries, some families used the following naming pattern, or a slight variant:

  1. The first son was named after the father's father
    The second son after the mother's father
    The third son after the father
    The fourth son after the father's eldest brother
  2. The first daughter after the mother's mother,
    The second daughter after the father's mother
    The third daughter after the mother
    The fourth daughter after the mother's eldest sister

Others named children after people who had been influential in their lives, such as friends and neighbours. Not everyone adhered to the above patterns, especially if some family relationships were "strained"! Biblical names were also popular for some time, as were those of famous heroes such as Napoleon and Nelson.

For children, it is very important to check for burial records as, when infant mortality rates were high, if a child died the next child born in the family (of the same sex) was often given the same name. These apparent duplications are very common.

When the use of second (middle) names became more common (sometimes due to the increasing population and the necessity to distinguish between individuals) the maiden name of the mother was often used. Therefore, a name such as Henry Yeo Trewren gives a very good clue to the mother's maiden name.

It also became popular for unmarried mothers to use the father's surname as the second name of the child, Care is needed here, though, as this is not always the case. Because of the various Poor Law Acts passed over the centuries. parishes were loathe to take responsibility for any 'illegitimate' children (understandable when some women produced such children year after year!), and mothers were encouraged to disclose the name of the father, so he could be charged for support. It's worthwhile searching our bastardy bonds section, to see if any records exist. Alternatively, when old enough, the child might have been apprenticed to someone else in the parish. There is a searchable section in our database for those records, too.