Do Irish naming patterns work for you? Have you ever reached a stumbling block in your ancestry research? In this letter will will discuss a built in set of clues left by many of our Irish ancestors, hidden in the pattern of how they named their children.
Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to the Letter from Ireland for this week. How are things going in your part of the world today?
Before I go on, some readers were on wondering if I could share some photos from our recent trip to that most Irish of English cities, Liverpool. Did any of our Irish ancestors arrive in, or set sail from, Liverpool? So, here is a bonus letter from last year – The Arriving and Leaving of Liverpool – with some photos from our recent trip.
I do hope you enjoyed that mini-tour around a lovely place. I’m having a nice cup of Barry’s Tea – and I do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.
One of the most frequent questions I hear each week is a version of the following:
“My ancestor came to my country in the 1800s – but I have no idea where they came from in Ireland, or the names of their parents in Ireland. Is there some way I can find this information?”
How about you? Do you have a situation like this? Well, today – let’s have a look at a very useful way of going back a little further in time on your Irish family tree. We are going to chat about “Irish Naming Patterns”.
Like to add your Irish surname to our list?Just signup for your free weekly Letter from Ireland by clicking here. – and we’ll let you know how to join in the fun.
My name is Michael Collins. I am the eldest son in my family and named after my Grandfather – also Michael Collins.
My Father’s name is John Collins – he is an eldest son and named after his Grandfather – also John Collins.
My father, John Collins has three siblings:
Now, why am I sharing these random facts about my family? Well, there is a useful pattern hidden in the above naming of children. The “Irish Naming Pattern” is a real system of child-naming that was in use in Ireland for hundreds of years – and often continued to be used in the Irish immigrant’s new country for a couple of generations. I have found it to be in strong use in Ireland right up to the 1960s. The naming pattern is as follows:
So, if this system holds true in your family, it can be very useful in taking an educated guess as to the names of your unknown Irish ancestors. When someone asks me a question in The Green Room about how to trace unknown Irish ancestors, I often ask them to share the names of already known children – from eldest to youngest. Let’s take a simple example:
Patrick and Kathleen O’Mara emigrated to Australia in the mid 1800s. The names of their parents – who stayed in Ireland – are unknown. They had the following children after emigrating to Australia, from eldest to youngest:
If this family used the traditional Irish naming pattern, then we can guess the following:
One fact that confirms that they most likely used Irish naming patterns is the fact that the third son is called Patrick – the same as his father.
Now, naming patterns were not always used – or the pattern may fall apart as you approach the younger children – but they are surprisingly accurate across both religions and regions in Ireland – and very useful when taking educated guesses for further research when tracing your Irish family back to Ireland.
How about you? Do the Irish naming patterns hold up as true in your Irish family tree? Do feel free to leave your comments and let me know.
That’s it for this week – as always do feel free to share your stories, comments and Irish surnames in your family.
Slán for now,
Mike & Carina.
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