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Naming Traditions

How They Might Help Your Research


It’s good to know about naming traditions.  The old Irish Convention goes like this:-


The first son named after father’s father; second son named after mother’s father; third son named after father; fourth son named after father’s eldest brother and fifth son named after mother’s eldest brother.


The first daughter named after mother’s mother; second daughter named after father’s mother; third daughter named after mother; fourth daughter named after mother’s eldest sister; fifth daughter named after father’s eldest sister.

Not Always the Way

Naming conventions while not always set in cement can give clues to help our research.  It may be a starting point to help prove or disprove a theory that a person by a certain name belongs in a tree. There’s no harm done by throwing a name into a search engine to see what results are thrown back. Everything could fall into place, a new avenue of research could open, or it could be another dead end.

Using the Convention

I am looking for information on the family of James O’LEARY, father of Edward (1841-1916). The O’LEARY tree has Edward marrying Catherine SULLIVAN in Auburn South Australia in 1866. Their children in order of birth are Alice, Mary (died at 1yr), James, Charles, John, Mary, Edward (died at 1yr), Patrick, Catherine, Edward and Michael.

With this birth order, I can now speculate that Catherine’s mother’s name was Alice and Edward’s mother’s name was Mary. Their third living daughter was Catherine, the same name as her mother. This accords with tradition increasing the likelihood that Alice and Mary’s names may also follow tradition.

The boys are a different story.  Their names baulk convention, apart from first son James named after his father’s father. Who knows, perhaps Edward and Catherine rebelled against their old home country tradition after they had settled in Australia. Whatever the reason, I still believe it’s worth putting tradition to the test especially with the earlier generations.

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