The Basics: A Guide
Way of naming children may be significant in family history
Up until very recently children were usually named after family members. The usual pattern is as follows: first son, named father's father; second son, named after mother's father; third son, named after father's paternal grandfather; fourth son, named after mother's paternal grandfather; fifth son, named after father's maternal grandfather; sixth son, named after mother's maternal grandfather.
The same thing happened for the daughters except that you always started with the mother's side first. The first daughter was named after the mother's mother, the second daughter after the father's mother and so on. This is only a rule of thumb, there are many variations to be found - instead of naming it after a grandparent, sometimes an aunt or an uncle was used.
Using my own family illustrates the above - my oldest brother was named after my father's father (my brother's paternal grandfather), the second son was named after my mother's father, the third son was named after my father's paternal grandfather (this was also my father's name) and I was named after my mother's brother. At the time of my birth, the family had just found out that my uncle was safe in an army camp.
If there was any discord in the family, the rules for naming the children was broken. The in-laws didn't want any children named after them if they didn't like their child's husband or wife. Sometimes the order of naming was changed because a grandparent happened to die just before the birth of the child. An interesting thing that can happen in this naming process is that you can have two or three (surviving) children with the same name in the same family. This was true if the grandparents on both sides had the same first name. In this manner you could have two or three Jan's in the same family.
To distinguish the two they would call the oldest one Jan de oude (John the oldest), the other one would be called Jan de jonge (John the youngest). In the case of three Jan's in the family the third one would get a descriptive word added to his name, such as Jan de groote, Jan de kleine, etc. In other families none of the children would be called Jan, that way there was no problem. Another solution to the problem was to add a second name, one child was called Jan Albert, the second son was called Albert Jan. In some cases names were repeated if a previous child with the same name had died. In one of my forebear's families there were five children but only two names were used.
One last comment about names. If a grandfather's name had not yet been used and a daughter was born, the daughter was given a masculine name with a feminine ending - for example Jacoba (Jacob, Jacobus), Teuntje (Teunis), Jantje (Jan) and Adriaantje (Adriaan). Next time we will go back to records again.