Was it common/uncommon for a child to be given the same name as a sibling who has died in infancy?

+14 votes
If it makes any difference, the people I'm wondering about are of Irish descent in the mid-1800s.
in Genealogy Help by Robin Shaules G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)

Hello Robin.

That was more common than we thought. I have just run across a case like that. There was an Antonia Gertrudis christened on 1730, she died as a baby. 3 years later a sister of her was christened Gertrudis Antonia.

Thank you.  I was questioning my sources, but I think I'll add the deceased children.  Hopefully, I'm not turning something simple into a mess.
Yes, quite common.  If they liked the name, they would keep trying until one child of that name survived. It can get confusing.
Yeah, in that context, it wasn't uncommon. It tended to be done more often with high priority names, like the parent or grandparent's name.
Yes, it was extremely common in nearly all 18th-19th century communities to re-use the names of deceased infants. I think it was one way they dealt with the grief of losing babies: if you used the same name, it meant that the baby survived, in some sense.

The most extreme example I've encountered was a baby who got his ten-year-old brother's name less than a week after the elder child's funeral.

(The only exception I've seen to this re-use is Jewish naming; Ashkenazi custom considers it unlucky to use the name of someone who died untimely young.)
Thank you. Very interesting. For me, I would have preferred to give subsequent children their own separate name in order to keep the name of the one who died special to that child. But I understand that cultural norms are different -- not right or wrong.
Tis said that one Clayton of Delaware called his 3rd son James and his 5th son George.  Soon after George was born, James died, whereupon George was promptly renamed James.
This has proven to be an interesting and enlightening question.  Thanks to all who have responded.
Right now I am contemplating the  mystery of two sisters with the same name; they had the same father, but two different mothers, and both lived well into adulthood.

12 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer
Very common in Sicily mainly due to naming conventions. the 1st son and 1st daughter were always named for the father's parents, 2nd son and 2nd daughter always named for mother's parents. If one of those children died, the next born got the name. Also a tip for anyone with Sicilian ancestry if a wife died and the husband remarried, his 1st daughter with his new wife was named after his deceased 1st wife.
by Jim Tareco G2G6 Mach 3 (37.3k points)
selected by Robin Shaules
Thank you.  Very interesting...
+12 votes
Yes. It happened in my tree many times. I think it's a common Catholic practice. Then again it also happened in my Colonial New England lines, too.
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (791k points)
Thank you. I expect that this is a Catholic family as the descendants living today are also Catholic.
+10 votes
Like Chris, that scenario appears in my family here in the South.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.8m points)
Thank you. This scenario will certainly help keep us on our toes.
+8 votes
Very common in NE England.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (682k points)
Thank you. Though it's new to me, it appears it's not uncommon at all.
+10 votes
I have several cases of that happening.   It doesn't appear to matter what ethnic group the parents were, it seems it was more about carrying on a family name.
by Wendy Fromme G2G6 Mach 2 (26.8k points)
Thank you. Yes, it seems to be so.
+7 votes
Yes it was common and to help from confusing siblings I use a sticker {{Died Young}} in the biography.
by Kevin Conroy G2G6 Pilot (261k points)
Thanks for that idea. I'll add it to mine.
+6 votes
It's occurred in several of my family groups..... no particular religion involved  (but no Catholics) but mostly living in NC, TN, GA, VA, KY, and AR...  I like Kevin's idea to use the  {{Died Young}} sticker.
by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (475k points)
I don't think there was much regional differences but maybe some cultural. I t happened a lot in my Scots/Irish Canadians. Also some in my French Canadians but there it was more difficult to tell given the number of Marys and Josephs in the same family (need those middle names). The {{Died Young}} sticker does sound like a good idea.
+6 votes
My great grandfather (Sweden) was named the same name as a brother born before him who died in infancy.
by Living Swanson G2G Crew (620 points)
Yes, it was very common in Sweden.

In fact, there was a basic naming pattern much like the Sicilian - although it wasn't strictly held to at all times, and I also think that their were variants in whose parents went first.

I am also coming across a very few families where they had two girls named Anna, both alive, or two boys named Erik, both alive.
+5 votes
My Maryland German ancestors did a lot of this in the 1700s.

And according to one of my in-laws who does the genealogy on that side, my husband's grandfather in Bohemia was something like the fourth or fifth child in his family to have his name; the previous siblings all died in infancy, and he was the first to survive.
by Sharon Casteel G2G6 Pilot (168k points)
Wow, I don't think I would have wanted to have that name. Thankfully the last one survived.
I sometimes see families where all the children given a particular name die and they have much better luck when the kids are given other names.
Among my ancestors, 3 seems to have been the limit for re-using a name, but I can't tell whether this was purposeful: in all cases, either the third try survived, or they had no more children of the correct gender.
+6 votes

I give you William Wolley of Cumberworth (at the bottom)


According to this, he had 4 successive Williams by the 2nd of his 4 wives.  He also had 2 Johns by the 4th wife, p. 1104, and 2 Roberts by different wives.

William was the grandfather of the obscure gateway immigrant William Asfordby.

by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (645k points)
Thank you for that -- very interesting.
+4 votes
I also think in some cases it is a name for a still born infant. I have a family that had a Relief, followed by another Relief, than Delivererance - all still born. Then they had some children who lived, and another stillborn named Deliverance. Both Reliefs were girls, but a third Relief lived to old age. Deliverances were boys.
by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 6 (62.8k points)
+3 votes
It was not unusual, among my Dutch ancestors.  I have found numerous instances of renaming.
by Mark Weinheimer G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

Related questions

+2 votes
1 answer
+6 votes
5 answers
+4 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright