From the names of the children in a family, you might be able to make an educated guess as to the names of their parents, their grandparents, even their great-grandparents. As your search for ancestors expands to siblings of your parents or grandparents, looking at the names of the children in a family may show a naming pattern based on ancestral family names. Some families followed the rules rigidly while others did not. There are also instances where, rather than naming a child after an eldest brother or sister, the name of a favourite brother, sister or friend might be used.
These patterns varied widely by ethnic and religious groups, but bearing in mind these numerous exceptions, it is still possible to identify a common pattern found prior to the latter half of the 20th century.
The conventional English naming pattern in the 18th and 19th centuries was as follows:
|1st son = father’s father||1st daughter = mother’s mother|
|2nd son = mother’s father||2nd daughter = father’s mother|
|3rd son = father||3rd daughter = mother|
|4th son = father’s oldest brother||4th daughter = mother’s oldest sister|
|5th son = father’s 2nd oldest brother or mother’s oldest brother||5th daughter = mother’s 2nd oldest sister or father’s oldest sister|
I had completed the first step of identifying my maternal and paternal grandparents. The next step was to find family connections through researching their parents and siblings. From various searches on census, birth and marriage records I found my great grandparents, George Wheatley and Mary Anne Wheeler, the parents of Alice Kate Priske (nee Wheatley). I also found the names of all her siblings.
George Wheatley was born March 1, 1850 in Middlesex, England.
Mary Anne Wheeler was born in 1851 in Wheathampstead, England.
George Wheatley and Mary Anne Wheeler were married on March 2, 1872 in Wheathampstead, England.
After their marriage, George and Mary Anne Wheatley lived their entire lives in Wheathampstead, England. George Wheatley died on August 11th, 1925. His wife, Mary Anne Wheatley (nee Wheeler) died on May 3, 1938. They are both buried in St. Helen’s Churchyard, Wheathampstead, England, along with two of their daughters.
George and Mary Anne Wheatley had ten children, but, unfortunately, only one son, Albert Frederick and four daughters, Alice Kate, Lillian, Aida Maud (Lita) and Laura Louisa, lived a normal lifespan. The children were, in the order of birth:
- George Joshua Wheatley, born 28 July 1872, died 21 December 1887.
- Emily Clara Wheatley born 1874, date of death unknown, but after 1923.
- William Henry Wheatley, born May 1876, died 3 September 1877.
- Alice Kate Wheatley, born 26 July 1878, died 31 March 1952.
- Lillian Wheatley, born April 1881, died 18 Jul 1930, Ontario.
- Lizzie Wheatley, born about 1883, died December 1908.
- Aida Maud “Lita” Wheatley, born 31 January 1886, died 27 January 1981.
- Nellie Wheatley, born about 1888, died 17 May 1908.
- Laura Louisa Wheatley, born 29 November 1890, died 3 November 1972.
- Albert Frederick Wheatley, born 27 August 1892, died in 1980.
Three of the children, our grandmother, Kate and her two sisters, Aida Maud (Lita) and Emily Clara, emigrated to Canada in the early 1900’s with their spouses and those of their children who were born in England. The remaining two living siblings, Laura and Albert, remained in England.
The pictures below were taken in 1938 when Sydney & Kate Priske visited Victoria, B.C. to see their two sons, Ted and Harry Priske. On their return to Schreiber, Sydney Priske went on his last run, as he was killed in a train derailment. It is possible the woman on the left in the first picture is Kate’s sister Emily but the names of the other two women are unknown, possibly the two other sisters.
Note: If you read this and know the names of the unknown sisters, please let me know.
Knowing the names of all of Sydney and Kate Priske’s children, and also the names of their parents and siblings, it became obvious from whom the names of their children were derived:
|no photograph||Sydney Harry George Pope (died prior to change of surname)||Covered all the bases: Grandfather, George Wheatley, father Sydney and father’s nickname, Harry|
|Alice Kate Priske||Named after her mother|
|Frederick Priske||Named after mother’s brother Albert Frederick Wheatley (only child with no middle name).|
|George Montague Priske||Named after both grandfathers, George Wheatley and middle name of Thomas Montague Priske|
|Mercer Edward Priske||First name Mercer is the name of Julia Greenfield’s husband, Mercer Pope|
|Nellie Julia Priske||First name Nellie is after Kate Priske’s sister Nellie Wheatley|
|Ivy Laura Priske||Second name Laura is after Kate Priske’s sister Laura Wheatley|
|Jessie Emily Priske||Second name Emily is after Kate Priske’s sister, Emily Wheatley|
|John William Priske||Second name William is after Kate Priske’s
brother William Wheatley.
|Margaret Elizabeth Priske||No family names that match found.|
|Harry Leonard Priske||First name Harry is after father’s nickname, Harry Priske|
|Sidney Robert Priske||First name is after his father|
|Kenneth Wheatley Priske||Second name is his mother's maiden name|
When doing family history research, researching naming patterns helps to find both ancestors and descendants.
I can very easily find my family relationship with my first and second names, Alice Kathleen. I have always been known as either Kathleen or Kathy but Alice Kathleen was my mother’s method of naming me after both my grandmother and my mother – Alice Kate Priske and Kathleen Sullivan – initials of one and first name of the other.
My older brother was named Sullivan Michael Priske. He was always known as Mickey as a child and Mike as an adult. Why Sullivan Michael? He has his paternal grandfather’s initials and his maternal grandfather’s name, with the surname first – Sydney Montague Priske and Michael Sullivan.
With her third child, my mother named him so his first name is the one he is known by. He was named Robert John Priske, after his uncle, Robert Priske, and his father’s middle name, John. At least he never had to explain why he wasn’t known by his first name!
Think of your name. Who were you named after and why? That is one of the first clues when doing family research. Before you know it, you might also become “hooked on genealogy”!