How Important Are Family Names?

Family names are a hot topic among baby-namers these days, with many parents looking through their family trees in search of names that carry family meaning.

For some people, the family itself is what’s most important, with the aim to choose the name of a family member they love and admire. If Great-Grandpa Floyd was a war hero or Grandma Enid a beloved and influential caregiver, then Floyd or Enid is the name they use for their child, fashion and even taste aside.

But there are other baby-namers who view the family name issue a bit more broadly. Sure, Great-Grandpa Floyd was an admirable guy, but Great-Uncle Isaiah did some pretty cool things too — and we like the name Isaiah a lot better than Floyd. Or we do want to name the baby after dear Grandma Enid, but we’re just going to use the initial and call her Eliza, or we’re going to use Enid as a middle name, or we’ll revive Grandma’s maiden name Morgan and put it in first place.

Then there are those parents who like the idea of using a name with family significance, but don’t particularly care which family member it was originally attached to. They’ll comb through the family tree in search of appealing choices that can be dusted off and restored to prominence, never mind that they never actually knew Great-Aunt Louisa or that Uncle Theo was a scoundrel. He was a scoundrel with a great name.

Of course, some parents don’t put much stock in using family names, or downright don’t want to use them — maybe because they were the one who got stuck being named after Grandma Enid.

What’s your feeling about family names? Vote in the first nameberry poll (yay! we finally figured out how to work it!) and let us know — and tell us more about how you used or didn’t use a family name for YOUR baby and what you think about the issue of family names in general.


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17 Responses to “How Important Are Family Names?”

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Lola Says:

January 4th, 2009 at 5:31 pm

I’m going to be the oddball and say the important thing is the family I’m honoring with the names. Even if I don’t love the names. That warm, fuzzy feeling I get when using Great Grandma’s Maud/Rosamel is about as grand as it gets. Now, if I liked the relative but not their name, I just won’t use the name, period. Grandma Rosamel’s younger sister, Lilivere? Not my cup of tuna. In the tree it stays. 🙂

JNE Says:

January 4th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Not that I have a problem with other people using family names, but for my kids, I will not be rehashing any family names. It’s my hope that my child will feel her name is hers. This isn’t due to the fact that I (or my husband) was named after anyone – neither of us were – and it’s not that I don’t like names of relatives – some I really love, but wouldn’t use BECAUSE they are relatives’ names. It’s just my desire that my kids have names that are all theirs (at least from a family perspective).

Mariuccia Says:

January 5th, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I love family names!
I was recently looking @ my fam. tree and I saw that I have not-too-recent ancestors w/ the last name Eyre, like Jane Eyre! What an interesting possible middle name choice. Also, I have great names on the tree like Sarah Letitia (1st name) and Ivy Lillian “Lily”

Erin Says:

January 6th, 2009 at 12:02 am

I can see two sides of this — I think it’s cool to look back and snip a really cool, interesting name from some great-great that you don’t know anything about. (We looked, but didn’t have any good contenders. Well, our son has hubby’s same middle name: Edgar. Which was actually the maiden name of a great-great.)

But, I think if you’re looking to honor a person, you should honor them. My daughter has my mom’s middle name, Carol. I considered Caroline, because it’s more modern, and more my style, but in the end it just didn’t feel right. And I’m so happy. My mom was thrilled. And I love that my daughter can say, “I’m named after my Mimi!”

Amellia Says:

January 8th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I think family and family names is important but at the same time get creative with it. I am named after an aunt who died as a child. Her name was Armellia. My mom hated the name but wanted to honor her sister so dropped the “r” and was left with Amelia with 2 “L’s”. My son’s middle name of Michael is a family name that several of his cousins share.

Eva Says:

January 10th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

This was interesting! My family is Armenian, so I have a lot of Armenian/Turkish names in my family tree: Sarkis, Egik, Mikael, Murat, etc, and Hatun, Guluzar, Zimroot, Haigui, etc for girls. I’d definitely consider using family names. In fact, when I have children, I’m sure I’d give at least a first name or a middle name to my child as a family name. I think it’s really important to carry on names and family tradition. I’m also thinking of tweeking the names a bit.
In example…
Hatun —-> Katherine (American form)—> Katarina
Esther —-> Estella (they both have similar beginnings and mean “star”)

I’m fine with the names Katherine & Esther though, but it’s nice to have options. I’d think I’d use the crazy Armenian names as only middles though.

Nameberry – Baby Name Blog » Blog Archive » FAMILY NAMES AND HOW TO MODERNIZE THEM Says:

January 16th, 2009 at 12:49 am

[…] were also very interested in the results of the  previous poll on family names.  You voted overwhelmingly –70%–in favor of using family names for your baby.  In […]

Jaycee Says:

March 11th, 2009 at 8:23 am

I used family names for my daughter but rather than looking for names i looked for people. You don’t have to use the exact same name to honour someone you love or loved.

My Daughter is named after my father, i simply used the feminine form of his name. Her middle name is the nickname of my aunt who was greatly supportive to me during my pregnancy. So whilst my daughter does have family namesakes she does not necessarily have the same name.

Some examples

Brianna versus Brian
Cecilia versus Cecil
Linda verses Lindon
Rose versus Ross
Bobbie versus Robert
Reggie versus Reginald
Ethyl versus Ethan

And i think you get the picture. I am still honouring the person by using their name for my child… i just prefer the opposite sex :o)

Cedes Says:

October 23rd, 2009 at 1:14 pm

My parents gave family surnames to each of us kids as middle names. My brother lucked out with the rugged Blackford, my sister got the very prim Stoll and I ended up with the nearly unpronouncable Morier. However, I did know my great-grandmother who carried Morier as her maiden name, so I do appreciate it, even if no one can say it correctly =/

Dani Says:

October 31st, 2009 at 9:30 pm

I know that when I have a son I’d like to name one of them Joseph Colin after both my grandfathers. Other than that, I have my own names that I like for my other kids (when I have them of course!)

lezlie Says:

December 27th, 2009 at 3:52 am

My siblings and I were all named after family. My name is my maternal granddad’s, with a slight tweak: my name has a z where his has an s. My sister inherited our dad’s middle name, Quinn, which she goes by. My little brother was named after a great great and has Washington as a middle name; good thing mom liked his initials, JW. I rather enjoy the fact that my parents had so much respect for their families!

smismar Says:

June 17th, 2010 at 9:57 am

I think a child should have a first name that is their own, but I like family names in the middle. In fact, I prefer it. I don’t see much point in a random middle name with no reason behind it other than that the parents just liked it. My daughter’s middle name is IHO my mother and MIL (Carol + Sharon = Caron). Any future kids will also have middle names that honor family in some way – either an actual name, a variation, or a surname.

Anastasia Says:

June 17th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

All my siblings and I have at least one family name. My first name is the feminine version of my fathers, and my middle name, Eleni, is my grandmothers name, Helen, in Greek.
My four brothers have first and middle names that are family names. My sister only has her middle name as a family name, it is also our grandmother and mothers middle name, and now my niece’s middle name.
But they were all names my parents liked, which I think is very important. We all like our names too.

Family names are nice, I have no problem with them, but then again I have no problem with names that parents just like.

AcornsAndOaks Says:

October 29th, 2010 at 1:13 am

I’m a big fan of family names, I can’t think of a bigger honour than to give your child the name of someone you care about. My son’s middle name is my father’s name, Martin (and one that’s been used in my family since the 1600s) and my daughter’s middle names, Catherine Anne, are my SIL, Grandma’s first and mother’s middle names. When they ask why we gave them their names, we can say their first names are their own because we love them, and their middle names are after amazing, wonderful people who love them, and who we hope they will grow to be a little like.

I suppose what I really, really like is names that are after *someone*special – not necessarily family. I really couldn’t do giving a child a whole name based on it sounding cool, for me it needs meaning.

Nancy Says:

March 9th, 2011 at 1:22 am

I was named for my dad’s favorite aunt, Nancy. When I got into genealogy and started researching our family history, I discovered no less that 11 “Nancy’s” on that tree. Yikes! It was apparently a very popular first name paired with a lot of shorter names, i. e., Nancy Ann, Nancy Lee, etc.

Family Names: Why They’re Most Important for Parentless Parents – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

March 24th, 2011 at 12:30 am

[…] names are important to nearly three-quarters of expectant parents, according to a nameberry poll , but for parents whose own mother and father have passed away, choosing a name that honors them and […]

Bea Says:

March 26th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

My first name, Baylie, was one my mother just happened to like. But my 1st middle name is one that was my mother’s, my (fraternal) aunt’s and both my grandmothers’ middle name. The 2nd middle name is a surname from my father’s side.

I like the combination idea; a name just because you like it with a family name.

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