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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's in a name?

So what's in a name? I'm not just talking about a family surname. I'm talking about the use and reuse of first names in a family line. I can see trends that lead to additional clues that people may be related.

Take my Flanagan line for example. The original first names that I know of from maybe around 1700 were James, Patrick, and Peter. That's the last generation where you see James. Maybe it was not a favorite name of Patrick's wife or maybe he was not a favorite. Peter must have been because down my Patrick Flanagan's line you see Peter. You also see Patrick, John, Richard, Michael, and Nicholas. Those seemed to be the male names of choice for several generations until maybe the mid 1900s. Some of those other typical Irish names like Kevin, Seamus, Sean, Liam, or Declan, don't appear here. I often wonder if Irish first names were also more regionalized. That's something that I'll have to look into.

On my McLaughlin/Maxwell side of the family the typical names are Thomas, James, Dennis, Joseph, Francis (or rather Frank), Hugh, Michael, and some others like Maurice (pronounced Morris). The name Thomas really dominates my McLaughlin line. There are at least 10 Thomas McLaughlin's on my tree. I have to admit that I've always really liked that name. It was our boy name if I'd had a boy the first time. I have two girls. I did not know all of this family tree history when I was pregnant so I find it kind of coincidental that we'd picked the name Thomas. I digress......

My McLaughlin's and Maxwell's also loved their last names and you can tell that they did not want to see those names die out. You have McLaughlin's with Maxwell as their middle name. I even have and aunt who never married whose given name was Ellen Maxwell Flanagan. Her brother's name was John Maxwell Flanagan and they called him Max. Talk about not letting the last name die out. It won't for a while if you use it as the middle name of some of your children. I can see Maxwell as middle names for other McLaughlin relatives too. Personally, I think that is cool. However, let's not stop there. There's at least one Maxwell with the middle name of McLaughlin. I've also found Gartlan used as a middle name on my McLaughlin line.

A funny thing can happen when you don't spell names correctly for people taking official records or the name gets transcribed wrong. I have a Thomas S. McLaughlin on my tree. He's my great-grandmother's brother. Church records from Battle Mountain, Nevada, have his middle name spelled as Gheffrey. Thus forward, I've found his name as Thomas G. McLaughlin. Let's not assume it's Geoffrey but people have. I am 99% sure it is Shaffrey making him Thomas Shaffrey McLaughlin. Shaffrey was his grandmother's maiden name. As you can tell, names can really get obscured over time and that's just a middle name.

My uncle emailed me the other day about something and mentioned that is so confusing when everyone's name is Johann Henrich. I've noticed that on my German family line. I have not gotten into that line. I'll let my uncle figure that out. :-)

And a funny story depending on how you look at it. My grandmother's given name was Josephine but it was supposed to be Johanna after her own mother. Her godfather has been blamed all of these years for blowing it at the baptism. However, I've also heard that maybe it was the priest or actually her father who might have been a little tipsy from toasting early that day. Who really knows? It's a story that should be handed down, however. I totally like the name Johanna.

There's probably some sort of relational sociology to the first and middle names people receive. It still exists today even though people have gotten more creative with names to say the least.

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