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From: Jim & Sharon Kavanagh <>
Subject: Old Irish Naming Pattern - results of 'survey'
Date: Fri, 04 Feb 2005 13:46:22 -0800


Hello listers,

It was fun to conduct an informal discussion/survey of whose ancestors
adhered to/broke with the so-called Old Irish Naming Pattern: 1st son for
father's fr, 2nd son for mother's fr, 3rd son for father, 4th son for
father's eldest bro, 5th son for mother's eldest bro. 1st daughter for
mother's mthr, 2nd d. for fr's mthr, 3rd d.for mother, 4th d. for mthr's
eldest sister, 5th d. for fr's eldest sister, and, if a child died young,
next child of same sex got that same surname.

I heard from 25+ from Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford, Irish-in-Chicago & Kavanagh
Surname Rootsweb mailing lists, from Ireland, US, New Zealand, Canada,
Australia.

Only one respondent said his Irish-in-Ireland ancestors (in the 1800's)
adhered strictly to the above pattern and then broke with it after
emigrating to England.

The rest responded with varying degrees of sticking to/improvising upon the
pattern:

Some families followed the above pattern strictly for the first few
children of each sex.

Most followed the Old Pattern when a child died young. The surname was
given to the next child of same sex. Often a middle name differed to
distinguish the deceased and living children of the same first name, or in
the case of sons, often the 2nd son was so designated, as in Patrick II.

Most (if not all) Irish families broke with the Old Irish Naming Pattern
after moving to the new country, especially when marrying non-Irish.

Several emphasized how the Pattern is a good thing to remember when looking
for Irish ancestors, using it as a reference and a guide to try to figure
out the correct family for a common surname. Several respondents are
transcribers of microfilms, etc. and several listers who responded have
accomplished much sophisticated genealogical research and records and were
generous in sharing knowledge and experience.

It was pointed out to me that the Naming Pattern was not used in the case
of an illegitimate child. Nor was it always used for births in the month of
March when Patrick or Brigid were common choices.

A good point to remember when a firstborn is not named after the 'correct'
grandparent: It's possible another child was born earlier, named after the
proper grandparent and died young. Over the years relatives forgot to
mention the deceased child and spoke of the next one as "eldest," making it
only seem that the Old Pattern had been broken.

I hope a lot of you read some of the responses and, like I, enjoyed the
delightful stories and the warmth and the humor. Those of you fortunate
enough to have Irish ancestors displayed a brilliant way with words, a warm
regard for others, and well-developed senses of humor!

Examples of funny and poignant stories included immigrants buried facing
Ireland, contrary to the way all the other graves were oriented in a
cemetery. People baptised with one name but the relatives were told it was
another name that would make that relative happy. Strong women winning out
and getting the kids named first for maternal relatives. People following
the Pattern without even knowing it existed, and observing the Pattern may
be "bred in the bone." A story about breaking the Pattern when knowing
further children would not be forthcoming, but then when the maternal
grandmother found out the child had not been named for her, she was furious
and could not bear to face the paternal grandmother in the town, she was so
ashamed!

I enjoyed this on-line discussion thoroughly and hope you did, too. I
compiled this E-mail because I know that not all of you see all of the
lists I contacted.

Sharon Kavanagh
Monroe, Oregon
(researching KAVANAGH Carlow/Wicklow/Wexford/Dublin, then Chicago & BYRNE
in Wicklow , then Chicago and Colorado)


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