Another ancient project of a sailboat entered our lives recently and we are facing the big question. Not, “Did you notice all those holes in the sails?’ or, “Why doesn’t the engine start?” or even, “Why is the water coming in faster than we can pump it out?” No, the big question is, “What should we name her?”
We humans like to name things. We name things to help us to understand how the rest of the natural order fits together. We name things to honor people we have known and people we admire. We name inanimate objects and imbue them with personality. Many a GPS or an automobile has a name. My GPS has an x-rated name and would someone please tell her I’m not going over the George Washington Bridge, so she can stop trying. In addition to the GPS I have named two children, 8 or 9 cats, 3 or 4 boats, a host of small mammals, most now buried in the backyard, and the odd goldfish or two.
All of which brings me to the subject of names and naming conventions. I greatly enjoy just looking at the given names in my database.
I love the virtue names. In my database I have Mercy, Patience, Grace, Thankful, Prudence, and Temperance. All the virtue names are female; make what you want out of that.
I love the names that have gone out of fashion. In my database I find Americ,
Homera, Erastus, Jabez, Hepzibah, Asimuth, Archeleus, Mehitable, Shubael, and Zilpha and I love the ones that have returned, Bethany, Ethan, Samantha, and the like.
As a genealogist it is useful to be aware of naming conventions used by different groups. There are as many naming conventions as there are identifiable groups of humans. Here are a few.
The general naming conventions among English and Irish is:
First son after the father’s father
Second son after the mother’s father
Third son after the father
Fourth son after the father’s eldest brother
Fifth son after the mother’s eldest brother
First daughter after the mother’s mother
Second daughter after the father’s mother
Third daughter after the mother
Fourth daughter after the mother’s eldest sister
Fifth daughter after the father’s eldest daughter
Scottish naming conventions are slightly different, but follow the same theme of grandparents, parents and parent’s siblings.
Most Jewish people are named after dead relatives or occasionally friends. Often the name of a recently deceased relative is used to name children who are born shortly after the death. In my generation in my family there are four of us named after an uncle who died too young and was much beloved.
Some Asian countries have very strict naming conventions. I am told that Chinese names will allow you to puzzle out a person’s place in the family genealogy
I’m sure there are many other naming conventions of which I am unaware.
Then what am I to make of those odd names in my database?
By far the oddest I have come across is the first name Ai. There are several hundred people with the first name Ai in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Most of the last names of these people are of English sounding origins. A quick look at naming books and such list the name as a Japanese name meaning love. How did this name find its way into my Blood family?
And what of the foreign names? Rueta and Tavita found their way into my database thanks to an ancestor who was a missionary in Fiji. I don’t know about Fernando. Undoubtedly, there are some Spanish or Portuguese ancestors to look for.
I could go on and on. Every given name raises the question of why it was chosen.
And the sailboat? I suggest, Jessie Martin; if you read my last post you know why. My husband reminds me that the Jessie Martin sank, twice. He suggests we name her after a favorite cat. I remind him that the cat died, only once. The former owner named her Blue Skies. Nice name, don’t you think, already painted right there on the stern. Blue Skies it is.