Scottish traditional naming patterns

Scots often named children by following a simple set of rules:

  • 1st son named after father’s father
  • 2nd son named after mother’s father
  • 3rd son named after father
  • 1st daughter named after mother’s mother
  • 2nd daughter named after father’s mother
  • 3rd daughter named after mother

Although this was not universally applied (some families adhered strictly, others “dabbled” and still others ignored it), it can still be helpful in determining the correct entry when confronting the relative lack of information in the Old Parish Registers. It can also give rise to great confusion when eight children of the same family in a small parish name their offspring according to convention! The use of traditional naming patterns gradually declined during the 19th century.

The application of naming conventions and the general desire to ensure that a family forename perpetuated through the generations, sometimes led to duplication of forenames within a family. For example, where a family wished to adhere strictly to the traditional naming pattern, and both grandfathers bore the same forename, that name might be given to more than child. If a child died young, parents might name a later child after the dead sibling. In unfortunate cases, the name may have been used more than once.

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