Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Scottish Naming Pattern

I have 37 Henry Fowlers in my tree. And I know there are others I haven't connected to my branches yet. That's part of the Scottish Naming Pattern. This can be a joy or a peeve. It can help you link ancestors to your surname. But it is also a struggle when you find a record and need to figure out who is who.
My grandfather and his brothers "went to America". One brother was already living in Windsor Ontario when my granddad arrived. They had a cousin, Henry Fowler, who was working in Detroit for Mr Ford. I found Henry on the 1930 census but needed to find out where he fit in relation to my grandfather. Remember I have no less than 37 Henry Fowlers in my tree. However, narrowing it down to Henry Fowlers of the same age as my grandfather and his brothers left me with about 15 to choose from. I eventually narrowed it down to the son of my great grandmother's brother, Henry Fowler (of course!). It took a great deal of digging to make sure I had the right Henry. The Fowlers were strong adherents to the Scottish Naming Pattern. Had there been a John Fowler, I would have known he likely wasn't mine as we have no John Fowlers in the  family (so far). Because of his first name, I knew that Henry was likely my ancestor, I just needed to work to prove that he belonged to me.
Here's how the Scottish  Naming Pattern works:

First Born Son - named for the paternal grandfather
Second Born Son - named for the maternal grandfather
Third Son named for the father - unless he shares a name with one of the grandfathers
Fourth and subsequent sons were often named after father or mother's brothers

First Born Daughter - named for the maternal grandmother
Second Born Daughter - named for the paternal grandmother
Third Daughter - named for the mother - unless she shares a name with one of the grandmothers
Subsequent daughters were generally named for mother or father's sisters

In addition, if one of the first three children died, the next baby born of the same sex was given that name so that the name would live on for future generations. This became a bit of a conundrum for me when I was assisting a family looking for their roots in North Uist. This family had Donald MacDonald, then son Donald MacDonald who died at age 3, so the next born son was Donald MacDonald (so far, so good). This Donald did not die, but a subsequent son was also named Donald. This time, Donald John MacDonald. Both grandfathers were Donald and each had a living grandson named for him!

It gets even better when every eldest son marries an eldest daughter: Henry marries a Margaret - they have a Henry and a Margaret - that Henry marries a Margaret or Margaret marries a Henry. That's when the "Auld Henry", "Wee Henry", "Big Henry" and "Margaret's Henry" all come into play. Easy Peasy keeping them all straight!

Happy Searching!

1 comment:

  1. Useful post, Christine. Have mentioned it on my 'British and Irish Genealogy' blog at (entry for 22nd).
    Best wishes, Mick.