Keeping Names in the Family

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Are there any traditions associated with naming in your family that you'd like to adhere to? How about loved ones or ancestors you'd like to honor with a namesake? Or maybe your family is bugging you to name a child after Dear Aunt Griselda. Keeping names in the family can be a wonderful way to keep connections between generations...or it can be a pain in the rear that leaves your children embarrassed with strange or ugly names for the rest of their lives.

Here are some tips and pointers when picking out family names...

Find or make a family tree.
Try to get as many full names as possible (i.e. maiden names, middle names etc.) Perhaps you'll find that Auntie Griselda's maiden name was Delaney--which makes a lovely first name. Unfortunately Uncle Buford's middle name was Egbert. Hey, his last name is Royce! Would that make a nice name?

Find out more information about relatives
You still loved your uncle Buford, but Buford is out of the question for your adorable baby boy, and you're not sure about Royce, his surname. But wait! Uncle Buford was a tailor in Austin, Texas! Maybe Taylor would be a nice way to honor him? What about the name Austin? Of course, information like this is not always available. If it is, you'll find that other information doesn't always make for nice names. Read on

What about a middle name?
Giving your child the name of a relative as a middle name is a nice way to add a family connection. In this way, you don't have to saddle your child with something undesirable, but the family connection is still there. Dylan Buford Jones or even Dylan John Buford Jones (lots of people give 2 middle names to kids these days) sounds nice, keeps family ties, and won't make you cringe everytime you yell "BUFORD JONES! DID YOU FINISH YOUR HOMEWORK?"

Use Initials Instead of Names
This has been traditional in many cultures for generations.

Use Variant Forms
Would Elizabeth Louise sound more up-to-date than BettyLou? Maybe a variation on a relative's name would be a good way to honor the relative, without giving a child an out-of-date or strange sounding name. Click here for more variations.

Don't listen to other relatives!
As with picking out any name, everyone will have an opinion. Some will insist you name the baby after a relative. You may or may not like this idea. remember, though--this is your child. Give it a name that you love! If your relatives are even just a tiny bit normal, their hearts will melt when they see the baby. The question of a name will be long forgotten!

Naming Baby After Dad

Dad Jr.
While I don't think the psychological ramifications of this practice can accurately be measured, I do know that it can be confusing to have two men with the same name in the same household. Perhaps you've telephoned the house of Joe, and asked to speak to "Joe" and the answer was "which one?" Or in extreme cases of one Joe household, the conversation went something like this:
"hello? Is Joe there?"
"Which one?"
"Little Joe"
"Nope, but Hoss is out back with the horses ha ha ha"
Callers got a little irritated with this joke after a while, and Little Joe was mortified when he discovered what his father had been telling all the girls who called. But that's another matter... Even if they're not in the same household, people have told me about confused magazine subscriptions, voter registration, and other complications that have arisen due to having the same name. One man was even sent his son's parking ticket fines by accident! He was not too thrilled! Also, many times a Jr. will get called a pet form of the name for much longer than he normally would have. For example, I know grown up men with names like Johnny, Bobby, and Little Joe who have tried in vain to get their parents and relatives to just call them John, Bob, or Joe. Many report that this is difficult, because their family considers "John" to be John Sr.'s name, and "Johnny" firmly belongs to John Jr. Whether this is an actual problem or not is up to the individual. I just thought it was an interesting point. A reader has sent in this comment:

I was named after my Dad, but my mom didn't want a 'little junior' running around, so they decided to use my middle name. Well that is all fine and dandy, except when you have 'legal' documents, and places where you have to use your full name, then the confusion starts all over again. It drives me nuts when someone calls for me and my dad answers and talks to them about my personal information just because he has the same name. I actually have filed for a name change to add another fist name, but I kept all of the names I was born with, just so I could have a name of my own. That is just my 2c

Another thing to consider is, would you name your daughter after her mother? It's Ok to have a John Jr. running around, but what about Jennifer Jr.? Maybe you would like to combine your names...
So what else can you do?

  • Use Dad's name as a middle name
    it might not be in as prominent a spot, but the sentiment will still be there.

  • Use Dad's full name, but call Jr. by his middle name
    this might be less confusing when you're shouting a name out

  • Use Dad's first name, but a different middle name.
    This can reduce some confusion. John Michael is definitely different from John James, and calling one or the other to dinner will not be as confusing

  • Call the Younger one by initials
    Maybe J.D. would be a nice nickname, rather than "Junior"?

  • Use a different form of the name
    What about instead of John Michael Smith Jr., He was Jonathan Micah Smith? It would have the same sentiment, but not be the same name. Click here for more variant forms.

Another phenomenon is naming daughters after dad. Sometimes this is fine--who can resist the pretty feminizations, like Michaela, Georgia and Josephine? However, Many times, parents create new feminine forms of names. Some of these names are nice. However, some are awkward and clumsy. A few come to mind: Ralphella, Stanlita, Willimette...But Dad really wants his little princess named for him. What can you do? Here are some girls' names that could be used to honor boys' names. You can also think of it this way--would you name a son after his mother? If your daughter will be Markelle, will your son be Jessicus? If so, see our table on Girls' Names Into Boys' Names. You can also you should try to combine your two names

  • Use a name that has the same initials
    Instead of Lancina Ralphette, what about Lauren Rose? Would Dad be happy with that?

  • Use Dad's middle name, or a variant form.
    Maybe his middle name has more possibilities.

  • Use Dad's name as a middle name.
    Maybe Brittany Ralph Johnson would be better than Ralphella Johnson.

  • Use a name that sounds similar.
    What about Donna or Donya, instead of Donalda for Daddy Don? Click here for more similar sounding names.

  • Use an Anagram of Dad's Name
    Sometimes, if you re-arrange the letters of a name, you can get another, prettier name. For example, BRIAN = BRINA, JASON = SONJA, AIDAN = NADIA, DIANA, ADINA. Of course, if Dad is Jeff, Fefj might not make the most melodious name. It's a thought, though.

  • Use Dad's name as-is.
    This is a tricky one. While it is all the rage now to use boys' names on girls, sometimes you can cross the line. I wouldn't recommend naming your daughter Ralph! However, names like Michael have been used for girls a lot, as have variant spellings like Mykelle etc. Maybe a more 'feminized' spelling would work?

Naming Baby After Mom

Babies are rarely named after their mothers these days. It is usually the father, if anyone whom a baby is named after. Why not name a baby after his or her mother? Or at least after Mom's initials? Most of the ideas used in the section on Naming Baby after Dad can also be used to Name Baby After Mom.

Naming a Son After Mom
If you aren't content with merely using Mom's initials, try a variation of Mom's name. Click Here for some ideas about turning Mom's name into son's name.

Naming a Daughter After Mom
Use the same rules as for Naming Baby After Dad (initials, etc.). Click here to see some variations on Mom's name you could use.

Combining Names

Combining two or more names can be an interesting way to honor more than one relative at once. You can even honor Mom and dad equally this Way, without getting into the whole Jr. thing. Be creative! Sometimes beautiful new names can come out of combinations! Sometimes you can get existing names out of two names. For example, I went to school with a girl named Karon. Her parents were Kathy and Ronald.
There are two major ways to create names: