These naming patterns are not iron clad, but were used extensively. We have found the patterns to be extremely useful in identifying possible family groups. Later research is then used to verify these family groups, such as Old Parish Records and census. By the latter part of the 1800's however, people were beginning to expand a little on the naming of their children. That gave far more variety; but then for us genealogists perhaps it was a step they should not have taken.


1. Firstborn daughter - named after her maternal grandmother (her mother's mother)

2. Secondborn daughter - named after her paternal grandmother (her father's mother)

3. Thirdborn daughter - named after her mother

4. Fourthborn daughter - named after her mother's oldest sister

5. Fifthborn daughter - named after her father's oldest sister


1. Firstborn son - named after his paternal grandfather (his father's father)

2. Secondborn son - named after his maternal grandfather (his mother's father)

3. Thirdborn son - named after his father

4. Fourthborn son - named after his father's oldest brother

5. Fifthborn son - named after his mother's oldest brother


One of the more perplexing questions we found was "Where did these middle names come from that sounded like surnames?" Here are some of the tips we have found:

1. It was customary to name at least one child's middle name after the surname of the local parish minister who christianed that child. For example, in our Meikle family, we had a James Dewar Meikle. For years we looked for a familial connection to the Dewar family to no avail. Then we saw a tip somewhere about the parish minister. Sure enough, in the baptism records for James Dewar Meikle, the parish minister was Hugh Dewar.

2. It was also customary to name a child's middle name after the surname of the person for whom they are named. For instance, Agnes Templeton Meikle was the thirdborn daughter of George Meikle and Agnes Forrest Templeton. Hence, the name Agnes since she was thirdborn, and the middle name of Templeton, denoting her mother's maiden name.

3. It was also common to give sons and daughters a middle name denoting the maiden surname of the mother. This is helpful when trying to identify the maiden surname of the mother.

4. If a child died during the parent's childbearing years, it was VERY common to use that name again. Thus, if Elizabeth Wilson was born on 1 Jan 1800 and died 3 Feb 1803, the next daughter born was given the name of Elizabeth. That makes it difficult to follow the naming patterns.


When we first started to study our Scot history, we ran into more people named James, George, William, Agnes, and so on. One's first thought is to comment on the lack of individuality, among other more choice comments.

Then we discovered the naming patterns. So the next logical question was to ask "Why would these people be almost required to name their children a certain way?" Knowing our independent the Scots are/were/always will be, this was a puzzlement.

Somewhere along the way, in studying their history, churches, and more importantly their spirituality, it has dawned on us that these people were compelled to honor their own personal ancestry. Were they compelled by law? Not that we have found. We feel they were compelled by an inborn sense of respect. It bothered us at first to realize that if a child died, that child's name was given to another child if possible. Knowing that we could never do that, we were trying to input our modern sense of beliefs into our ancestor's lives. Then it became clear how much these people believed in God. Thus, they could bury a two year old daughter, knowing full well that she was now in the arms of God. But, the grandmother's memory must be honored still. Therefore, another child is given the name to carry on that honor.

Page Created by Mary and Don Saban. Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Return to Scotland-United Kingdom Resource Page

Return to Meikle - One Name Study

Return to Saban Thompson Homepage

Return to Family History Resource Page

Return to General Family History Resources