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How Important Are Family Names?

January 4, 2009 Pamela Redmond

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.


About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

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