Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Fourteen

This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter 14, "Child-Naming Patterns: A Tool to Assist with Family Reconstitution" by Richard Woodruff Price, MA, AG.

This chapter opens and ends with thought provoking statements. At the beginning of the chapter, the author states:
A major focus of work for the genealogist is the study of names, including their meaning and relationships to others. The task of assigning a given or Christian name to a child is simple but originates from cultural, historical, and familial customs. The choice of a name usually came from the parents.
It is true that naming patterns are cultural and have a long history. I would refer to the history told in the Bible in Luke 1:59-66 as pointed out in this chapter of the book:
 59 And it came to pass, that on the aeighth day they came to bcircumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
 60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
 62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
 63 And he asked for a awriting table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
 64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongueloosed, and he spake, and praised God.
 65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were anoised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa.
 66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
What is illustrated here is the exception to the rule. But the tradition is clearly represented. I am reasonably certain that there are very few genealogists who can recited the naming pattern of their own ancestors beyond a recognition that some names seem to appear over and over. In my own family lines there are certainly patterns of naming children, but working out the details of the pattern can be a major challenge and there are always exceptions.

In my own family, I was named, in part, after my paternal grandfather. But none of my siblings were named after our maternal grandfather. One sibling was partially named after my father but that was it. No real pattern there. My sisters, on the other hand all got family names for at least one of their given names. As I look at my grandchildren, all 32 of them, I see no pattern at all. Many of them bear names from ancestors, grandparents etc. but the is no pattern.

As I have written about previously, names can be very complicated matters. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, there is a practice in some countries including the United States, of adopting a new name at the time of confirmation. This practice usually involves adding the name of a Saint. I have never seen that the person actually changed their birth name legally through the court system, although that could happen. Another example is that in the United States, it was the general practice for a married woman to use the name of her spouse as her surname. However, this is not the practice in Spanish speaking countries. Spanish speaking immigrants to the United States, sometimes follow the English speaking custom and sometimes the Spanish one.

Richard Woodruff Price makes a good point about the relationship of godparents. As he points out, many godparents were relatives and in some cases the children in the family were given the godparents' names. As the author further points out, the godparents, in some countries, took an active part in naming the child. I have observed that most of the present genealogy programs do not provide for recording the names and relationships of the godparents. This is a serious omission.

The chapter contains specific reviews of various regional studies that have been made over the years concerning naming patterns. But just as with predictions about the weather, there is never a 100% chance that the child will be named after a relative until it happens. In the U.S., the fact that there are lists of favorite names for children and that the favorites change over time clearly indicates that naming patterns, at least currently in the U.S. are less important that movie stars' names and other famous people. The U.S. Social Security Administration listed Noah and Sophia as the two most popular names in the U.S. for 2013. A list for 2014 on The Huffington Post lists Imogen for girls and Asher for boys. Yet another list for 2014 from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene listed Sophia for girls and Jayden for boys. I guess you can take your pick as to what you think is trendy or popular.

I had a friend when I was living in Panama who had six sons. He had named each one of them with the same name: José.

As the article points out in the last paragraph:
Although naming-patterns can provide powerful clues to identifying family relationships, they can also be frustratingly misleading. When researching any family, it is necessary to analyze all data and, with the preponderance of evidence, use the naming patterns to assist in drawing a final conclusion.
From my perspective, using the term "preponderance of evidence" raises another whole series of issues. But all in all, naming patterns are sometimes useful in breaking through otherwise very difficult problems of identifying families with the same or similar names.

As usual, the articles in this helpful book are a jumping off place for a great deal of discussion and further investigation. Here is a summary of the articles so far:

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