What Will the Baby's Name Be?
Have you ever wondered why many of your relatives seem to have the same names, generation after generation? Well, it may have something to do with naming patterns. There was actually a very methodical set of rules and protocols for naming offspring in several cultures.
The Scottish had a very specific naming pattern that ensured names were used over and over again. These patterns followed the emigrants across the ocean to Canada.
In many families, nicknames and variations of given names were used to try to sort things out in everyday life. The nicknames often referenced a person’s location of residence, vocation or some physical feature like hair colour. The Affleck family had 'Turkey Bob', 'Black Bill', 'Curly Bob', 'Curly Bill' and 'Cobbler John',
A girl named Margaret often became Maggie, Peggy or Margarite. Janet could be called Jean, Jeannie, Jeannette, Jenny or Jane.
See if your family followed the pattern as it was established in the old country.
The Bowes family from Scotland settled on Lot 21, Concession 5 of Ramsay Township in 1821. They are a good example of multiple generations repeating names in a specific pattern.
John Bowes Jr and Lillias Cuthbertson were the parents of (William) James Bowes (1763-1835)
The grandparents of (Wm) James Bowes were John Bowes and Margaret Marshall
James Monteith and Katherine Kerr were the parents of Margaret Monteith (1768-1838)
The grandparents of Margaret Monteith were Robert Kerr and Margaret Sinclair
James Bowes and Margaret Monteith were married in Scotland and travelled to Canada with nine children.
Their children were: (namesake in parenthesis)
John (paternal grandfather)
Catherine (maternal grandmother)
Lillias (paternal grandmother)
Thomas (*paternal brother)
James Jr (father)
Alexander (paternal brother)
John (renaming after death of child)
Janet (paternal sister, ‘Jean’)
Robert (maternal great grandfather)
William (first given name of father)
William (renaming after death of child)
Catherine (renaming after death of child)
We see the re-use of names which, at that time, was considered a way to honour a deceased child.
At first, the naming pattern might appear to vary slightly from the set pattern in one place in the Bowes family. The asterix beside the name of Thomas points to a potential shift in the naming pattern. That child’s name would have been predicted to be James after the maternal grandfather, Margaret’s father. One possible explanation is that if we dig deeper into the family story, Margaret Monteith married James Bowes against the wishes of her parents who reportedly disapproved of him. Lady Margaret Monteith had a title and James was an engraver and print cutter in the printing business. The young couple eloped and later emigrated to Canada. A possible estrangement may explain the use of a sibling’s name on the father’s side rather than the name of Margaret’s father, James, in the expected order for the maternal grandfather’s name. The name James does appear in the correct place for that of the baby's father. The name of Margaret’s grandfather, Robert, does appear in the family. William appears at the end of the list and is a reflection of the father’s actual given first name. James, the father, had siblings named John, Thomas, Alexander and Jean.
A baby's name was often prescribed long before birth. Middle names were not often used until later generations. It became helpful to include , at least, an initial to help identify which person was being referred to. Although, in modern times many different names are used in a family, the inclination still persists to connect a baby's name with a relative. Now, thankfully, it is usually with a middle name.
Interested in the James Family photo in the article about naming patterns. Does any one know the date and/or names of the family members?
We do not have a specific date for this photograph, but it is part of the Macaulay-Borrowman Collection of photographs which were taken between circa 1891 and 1925. We do not have names, but do have other James family photos in a published family history at the Museum that might lend some clues.
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This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.