Have you ever wondered why you have the name you have? Did you ever ask your parents? My name is Ellen, but my mom always said that my name was going to be Holly. I never asked why my parents didn’t choose Holly, but I know that I was named after my great grandmother, Ellen Middlebrough (nee Anidow).
When I was a teen, I didn’t like the fact that I was named after a “dead person”….. who knows why it struck me that way, but over the years and through genealogy and photos, I’ve come to like my great grandmother, Ellen. Now I look at her picture, and I see a spunky woman that was active in her community and church that died too young. She was only 49 years old when she died.
In the case of first names it was In the 18th and 19th centuries in England that families named their children following this naming practice:
- 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
- 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
My middle name is a bit of a mystery because it is Lee. I’m not sure why my parents choose this name, but I know that my grandfather didn’t care for it because it wasn’t the more traditional spelling “Leigh.” I guess it just shows that you need to ask these questions. I’d heard the story of my grandfather not liking the name but never asked why my mom had chosen it.
The use of a middle name did not start until late Medieval times. Then in the 19th century, the use of second names became more prevalent. Sometimes it represents a mother’s maiden name, an important person in the family, and I’ve heard of its use in the case of a senior or junior situation; it was a way of differentiating between one generation or another. Another practice I’ve seen in my own family is where a person goes by their middle name rather than their first name even though there are no other people in the family with the same name. In some families the mother’s maiden name is used as the middle name for at least one of the children.
Clues in your family history can be gained through the naming practices of the children (first and/or second names) so look at the names and see if you can discover where these names may have shown up in the family before.