My own family tree provides living (and dead) proof that there are certainly exceptions to be found which deviate from the traditional pattern. Also, there are many naming combinations and permutations outside the pattern which may appear inexplicable to us, but fit well within the beliefs and practices of our ancestors.
First of all, here is the traditional pattern:
The 1st son was usually named after the father's father.
The 2nd son was usually named after the mother's father.
The 3rd son was usually named after the father.
The 4th son was usually named after the father's eldest brother.
The 5th son was usually named after the mother's eldest brother.
The 1st daughter was usually named after the mother's mother.
The 2nd daughter was usually named after the father's mother.
The 3rd daughter was usually named after the mother.
The 4th daughter was usually named after the mother's eldest sister.
The 5th daughter was usually named after the father's eldest sister.
Are you still with me?
You may find children on your family tree who are named after brothers or sisters who pre-deceased them. Think of Henry Smart in Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry. In one line of my Kettle ancestors there are two girls named Margaret in the same family unit, born just a few years apart. These 'double names' also appear in one of my Early family units, with two Josephs born five years apart. Each one of these signalled the possible existence of a death registration for the first born sibling.
Superstition has sometimes had a bearing on forenames. In both the 18th and 19th centuries, in some Irish families, superstition held that three living individuals could not bear the same forename. The thinking was that it would portend death for one of them. For example, if there were two elder Patricks alive in the same family, then a new son would not be christened with that name.
Maiden names which are not recorded in either parish registers or civil registrations, may emerge in the forenames of male children in the same line. One clue is a forename which deviates from usual names in the family. For example, consider the name 'Coleman O'Brien' in a family line in which sons bear names such as Patrick, Michael, or Thomas. Turns out, his mother's maiden name was Coleman.
Have you ever had the name 'Mary' show up on a baptism record as part of the name of a male family member who was born in the twentieth century? If so, don't dismiss it as an error. It is a clue to the fact that the boy's mother or father may have been a member of a religious organization such as the Legion of Mary. As a symbol of their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, some Legion members pledged to include the name Mary as part of the baptismal name of one or more of their children, regardless of gender.
From the late 19th century into the early 20th century, Ireland enjoyed a period which is referred to as the Irish Renaissance or the Celtic Revival. This Renaissance had an impact on Irish forenames which we might sometimes overlook. During this time period, immersion in the Irish language and the study of ancient Celtic culture became a vitally important part of Irish life, and some persons who had anglicized names on their birth records, such as John, Peter, James, and Patrick suddenly became Seán, Piaras, Séamas, and Pádraig. If you have these Irish names for persons born around this time, and have been unable to find records for them, try 're-anglicizing' (to coin a word) their Gaelic forenames and you may strike pay dirt.
There may be some forenames in a family tree which do not appear to have been bestowed on descendants; however, such names may provide a clue to a 'missing' child. For example in my maternal line, it initially appeared that Jane, the name of my great-grandmother, was not passed down as a forename. After some research, I discovered that there had been a daughter named Jane who tragically died at only fifteen months of age. Not only was her forename never again used, but the existence of this child was unknown to members of my family.
On the other hand, you may find there are some forenames to which ancestors stuck like glue, a practice which can result in nightmares for the lonely researcher. In one time period in my own family tree, there were four generations of Kettle men who not only had the same forename, but the same middle name as well, and three generations of them lived in the same house. At least it would have been easy to call all of them to the dinner table at the same time.
If they had stuck like glue to those Irish naming patterns what an interesting group we'd be.
According to a strict observance of Irish Naming Patterns:
Patrick should have been my father's name, but then he would have been Patrick with an elder brother named Patrick. It might have made introductions a little awkward. I recall a sitcom on television with the introduction, "This is my brother Darryl, and my other brother Darryl". Perhaps the Darryls' parents were strictly following naming patterns.
My paternal grandparents stuck to the naming convention with my father's elder brother, who was christened Patrick after my great-grandfather. My grandparents named my father Michael Francis, after the brother my grandmother lost during the Irish War of Independence.
John should have been my brother's name, after our paternal grandfather; instead, my parents chose to name him after our father and my mom's father, so he is Michael Patrick.
As the second daughter in her family, my mother should have been called Jane. She much prefers her name of Mary Jane Teresa, a combination of names from her mother, maternal and paternal grandmothers, and a spinster grand-aunt. Her elder sister should have been Mary, but she was christened Bernadette, and if the naming pattern had been followed, Mom's younger sister should have been Mary as well, but Kathleen was chosen for her.
As you can see the name Maria (pronounced Mariah), anglicized to Mary, is a very popular one in my matrilineal tree.
|Matrilineal Tree: Married names appear in parentheses|
What is your experience of naming patterns in your own family tree?