The Scottish Naming Pattern: Keeping the Families Aligned 6

Back in October, I shared some really basic, yet really useful information on the Scottish Naming Pattern. This naming pattern was not invented by the Scots, but was used quite religiously by most families, really right up until the 19th century.

When those researching their Scottish roots look at the naming pattern, they have a definite "Aha" moment. It suddenly makes sense that they are seeing the same names repeated generation after generation. The trouble then becomes keeping the children aligned with the correct parents and siblings. Here are some tips:

Maiden Names:

To keep children aligned with the correct family, it will be important to focus in on the middle names. These will generally be surnames. In all likelihood maiden names that get carried on generation after generation.

Henry Fowler marries Jane Carrick. Jane's mother was Jean Fleming. Henry's mother was Jane McIntosh. In all likelihood, Henry and Jane will have children with the middle names of Carrick, Fleming and McIntosh. In fact, their first daughter is Jane Carrick Fowler. Two generations on, they have two great granddaughters named Jean. One is Jean Carrick Fleming Fowler Crawford and the other is Jean Fowler Fleming Carrick Crawford!

The nice thing about this is that although Henry Fowler will have first cousins who are also named Henry Fowler, the chances are slim to none that those Henrys also married a Carrick or a Fleming. So, having these two women with all of the surnames incorporated, helps at least to keep them lined up with Henry and Jane.

Misfit Names:

Look for the one name that doesn't fit the pattern. This helps to "anchor" your research. But let's look at why that child had a name that didn't fit the pattern.

If there was a new minister to the parish, it was customary for the first child baptized by him to be named after the minister. Some families went to the full extent and used the minister's entire name. Others took either the first or last name and incorporated this into the child's name either as the given or middle name.

Similarly a young district nurse, when finally allowed to be in charge of a birth, often had the honour of having that first baby named after her. My aunt is Linda Hay Crawford, Linda Hay being the name of the young district nurse who attended her birth. In births that were particularly difficult, and where the district nurse may have been more seasoned, she too, may have the child named for her as a way to honour her.

If someone who was considered "kin" (a close friend of the family, often referred to by a family moniker (aunt, uncle, cousin) they may have a child named after them as well. My brother was named for a very close family friend who saw my parents through a family tragedy. As a "thank you" to him, the next son they had was named in honour of him.

This is where it becomes important to really pay attention to the names of witnesses and informants on civil registration documents or in the Old Parish Registers (OPRs). You will quite likely find a child has a middle name which is the surname of one of the witnesses to a marriage, an informant of a death, or a godparent at a baptism.

Using the Scottish naming pattern and understanding the ways to keep the families aligned should really assist you in your Scottish genealogy research.

About Christine Woodcock

Scottish born, Canadian raised, Christine Woodcock is a genealogy educator with an expertise in the Scottish records. She enjoys sharing new resources to assist others in their quest to find and document their heritage. Christine is also a lecturer, author and blogger. She is the Director of Genealogy Tours of Scotland ( and enjoys taking fellow Scots “home” to do onsite genealogy research and to discover their own Scottish heritage.

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