Monday, April 4, 2011

Scottish Naming Traditions

I was inspired by the Family History Expos Weekly Tip to look at Scottish naming traditions and see if my believed Scottish lines followed the pattern.  I was especially curious about my Allen line because they are such a mystery:

Joseph Allen and his wife Elizabeth Clemens/Clements were the first in the family to come to the US.  I don't know who Joseph's parents were but Elizabeth's were James Clemens/Clements and Mary.  Joseph and Elizabeth had the following known children:

James Allen, b. 1850   
(1st born son is usually named after the father's father.  It is possible that was Joseph's father's name as well, but I do know it was Elizabeth's.  Usually the 2nd born son is named for the maternal grandfather)
Joseph T. Allen, b. ca. 1852
(The 3rd born son is usually named after the father, not the 2nd. But, there are exceptions to every rule, and if Joseph's father was also named James it would make sense)
Mary Allen, b. 1855
(The 1st born daughter is usually named after the mother's mother and since Elizabeth's mother's name was Mary this fits)
Robert Allen, b. 1857
(After the grandparents and father were covered, the next son is usually named after the father's oldest brother.  Since I don't know anything about Joseph's family, I don't know if this is true or not)
Catherine Allen, b. 1860
(The 2nd daughter is named after the father's mother.  Since I don't know anything about Joseph's family, again, I don't know if this is true or not)
Elizabeth Allen, b. 1865
(The 3rd daughter is named after the mother and this follows that pattern)
John Grant Allen, b. 1869 (my great-great-grandfather)
(The 5th son is either named after another brother of the father or the mother's oldest brother.  Elizabeth only had one brother and his name was indeed, John.  The Grant is for U.S. Grant who was also from Ohio and became President a few months before John was born)

This was just done for fun and I don't put a whole lot of stock into naming patterns (obviously I'm not going to list Joseph's mother as Catherine based on the above).  I do think that some possible leads can be mined from it, however, and will take some of the names into account while trying to find Joseph's parents and siblings.


  1. It's worth bearing in mind the Scottish naming pattern was falling into decline by the late 1800s - and that the pattern was not always consistent across Scotland. In Bute, eldest daughter was often named after the paternal grandmother, rather than maternal, and 2nd daughter then named after maternal grandmother, for example. Incredibly useful when it does work though!


  2. This is always fun. One thing we've noticed (in the north of Scotland at least) is that a child is named after a specific person, so if both grandfathers happen to be called John, you might find two Johns amongst the children. There's a famous family in Harris with five brothers all named John, or rather variations of it. And a lot of people didn't stick to this at all, or did it all out of order, so I think you're right not to jump to conclusions.

    (Makes you wonder about George Foreman and his five little Georges.)


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