I recently talked to a number of parents and grandparents on how they made their name choices. There appeared to be two basic camps in the naming of babies – family names or non-family names.
I found this to be odd, because when my children were born, my husband and I both assumed we would name our children after their grandparents. When my sister had her children I wondered how far back in our family tree she had to go to find the names she chose. I only found out recently that she intentionally chose non-family names.
For those of us that choose family names, the choices are usually based on uncles, aunts and grandparents. But with a little bit of research, the family tree provides a wealth of unusual and beautiful family names. In my family tree I have found Hattie, Lyman, Amelia, and Serenity. All great names, but I also found Obedience and Purity from my puritan branch and I don’t think I would saddle a daughter in the 21st century with those names.
Those who choose family names typically do so to honor the person whose name is being used, but in my case it was also to provide a role model. Both my husband and I not only loved our parents, but admired them as well. Having lived with my own mother’s name all my life, I feel I have had a strong connection with her and chose to follow her lead in many ways my sister did not. In the same way, my sister has my father’s middle name and has tended to imitate him in many ways.
In questioning others I learned that in Jewish families, it is taboo to name a child after a living relative, so if a family name is chosen one must go back a generation or so. Therefore my Jewish friend fell into the non-family name category.
For non-family names there are several directions to go. For my Jewish friend, she wanted a Hebrew name and was selective about the meaning of her daughter’s name. Likewise there are many other cultural influences on choosing a name. In my own case, my husband was from Peru so one of my requirements was that their names could easily be pronounced by a Spanish speaker as well as an English speaker.
Others liked choosing a popular name. They felt a sense of belonging by having a name in common with other children growing up, and want to pass that comfort on to their children. My sister however intentionally chose names that were neither popular or a family name to encourage her children’s sense of individuality.
She also was concerned with the short names that her children would get from friends or chose for themselves. So she chose names with several syllables giving them the freedom to use several versions of their name. In some families nicknames and pet names are very common, and one of her sons has been Paddy, Patrick, Pat, and now is using Rick.
In the case of one of my stepdaughters, her mother wanted to name her daughter after two friends, Terry and Linda. Since they didn’t seem to flow well as a first and middle name, she combined them and named her daughter “Tarinda.”
There are so many options in choosing a name. On the internet there are many sites for suggesting names and baby name books abound at the library. Undoubtedly, you will receive a multitude of suggestions from family and friends. Just remember your child must live with the name for the rest of his or her life, so take your time and choose a name that will inspire your soon to be born child.
Helen Pearre has been a mother, step-mother, foster-mother, custodial mother, non-custodial mother, working mother, at-home-mom, grandmother, aunt and great aunt. She now works as a consultant and writer for KidoodlesByKim.com which offers personalized kids and baby gifts.