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Scottish family naming patterns

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  • Duncan, Earl of Moray (c.1035 - c.1090)
    Duncan, husband of Ochtreda of Allerdale Sources # Medlands does not show him as a son of Duncan l, King of Scots Links*

Record keeping has always favoured a patriarchal following. Names are usually "offspring of the father". Surnames follow the father's line.

Maternal names were often lost once marriage changed the female's surname. I have noticed in my family and to an extent in other UK families that the maiden name of the mother or grandmother is found as a middle name in both male and female children.

Comment from Jim Henderson:
Yes. have a look at the descendants of my g-g-grandmother, Adelaide Sturt Henderson (Morphett). Many of them have Morphett as a middle name.

I have also noted that in my family (on both sides) that there is a repetition of given names in each generation.

It makes a huge difference in being able to find the relatives.

Anyone else noticed this? Anyone have a list of recycled names in their family?

From Happy Haggis UK:

Scottish naming patterns

This was usually not followed slavishly, as there are a lot of exceptions, but it can be a very useful tool in working back through the generations. For example, when you have found a family in a Census (so you know the names of the children), but you can't at first distinguish the birth records of the parents, because there is a choice in the IGI. The ones sharing the children's names are more probably the ones.

  • 1st daughter = mother's mother
  • 2nd daughter = father's mother
  • 3rd daughter = mother
  • 1st son = father's father
  • 2nd son = mother's father
  • 3rd son = father

From this point often the pattern is to go in turn through parent's brothers and sisters in order of age (i.e. 4th son is usually father's oldest brother). However, it is common for the pattern to break down from the fourth child onwards. The naming pattern is also one reason that there may be more than one child with the same name, particularly if the earlier child died. The second child is not likely to be named after the earlier child, but to keep the grandparent's name pattern intact. Also, what we might regard as variants of the same name may occur within the one family if the grandmothers/mother also share the one name.

Another common naming practice was for the mother's family name to be given to all the children in addition to the above e.g. Annie Mackie Fyfe, Susan Mackie Fyfe.

As long as this is treated as a series of clues (which need to be verified) then the naming pattern can save a lot of time.