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Irish Given Names

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  • before 1960 a priest could refuse to baptize a child without a saint's name
  • The first son after the father's father,
  • the first daughter after the father's mother,
  • the next two after the mother's parents,
  • the next two after yourself and then
  • after that a favorite sibling/one who died/became a priest or a nun/emigrated.
  • ancestors were called by their middle names to distinguish between the members of a large family with a number of identical names
  • In the 1800's, baptismal records, both RC and Church of Ireland, in the southern counties rarely list a middle name.
  • found more middle names in church records in the northern counties. Perhaps an English or Scots influence?
  • Irish ancestor's middle name was not given at birth, but was taken as a confirmation name. And some times a second middle name was added.
  • Nicknames. Ahh, the Irish nickname--created by our Irish ancestors just so that they could sit up above one day and laugh as we spend years, decades even, searching for great gramma Nancy's records when Nancy's name was really Anne! And Helen was Ellen, and Ted was Edward, and Biddy was Bridget, and Dick was Richard, and Sallie was Sarah...
  • family groups with the same surname were often given family nicknames to distinguish the branches from each other. You might have the Red Brennan's and the Black Brennan's, or the Tarlar Donaghy's, or it could be in Irish such as Bans (White), Dhu (Black), Gaes (Wee), Gabba (blacksmith) Bans (blond) or Mor (Big). Knowing your family's ancestral nickname, if they had one, is a crucial research tool when researching local Irish records.
  • Gaelic and Latin Names. Be on the lookout for Anglicized Gaelic names, especially as you go back in time and into Irish records. As you research RC church records, keep in mind that many priests, both in the US and in Ireland, wrote the names in Latin. Often, the Latin names bear no resemblance to the English or Gaelic names

Top ten first names for girls in 1864

Mary (232)
Margaret (120)
Catherine/Kate (81)
Bridget/Biddy (62)
Ann/Anne (54)
Ellen (48)
Eliza/Elizabeth/Betty (22)
Johanna (20)
Sarah (19)
Julia (15)

Top Irish first names for boys in 1864

John (143)
Patrick/Pat (142)
James (90)
Thomas (89)
Michael (86)
William (67)
Martin (18)
Peter (16)
Timothy (16)
Denis/Dennis (15)
  • Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Irish considered the saint's name too holy for normal use so they would use
Giolla servant of [Saint]
Maol devotee of [Saint] (literally "tonsured one")
  • Terms used by Sharon L. Krossa in Concerning Double Given Names Before 1600
    • A given name is a name chosen for and given to a person, usually at birth or baptism, as distinct from a byname or surname. Synonyms for "given name" include "first name", "forename", "baptismal name", and "Christian name".
    • A byname is an additional name used with a person's given name(s) to distinguish which person with that given name they are. (So a modern inherited family surname is a type of byname.) Note that unlike given names, the specific bynames used for a person are mainly determined by other people and/or cultural traditions rather than the personal choice or preferences of parents or the one named.
    • A personal byname is a byname that pertains to and describes that specific individual for whom it is used — for example, by describing their appearance or which individual was their father, etc.. For example, if <Johne Duncansone> is the son of <Duncan Redhed>, this instance of <Duncansone> is a personal byname that distinguishes this Johne from other men named Johne by indicating that this Johne's father has the given name Duncan.
    • In contrast, an inherited family byname or family surname does not pertain to or describe that specific individual but rather is inherited and shared by members of a family or lineage. For example, if <Johne Duncansone> is the son of <Robert Duncansone>, this instance of <Duncansone> is an inherited family byname that distinguishes this Johne from other men named Johne by indicating that this Johne is a member of a family that uses the byname Duncansone.
    • Surname is simply a synonym for "byname". Note that not all surnames are inherited family bynames — a personal byname such as a literal patronymic byname is also a surname. (However, you may find that some people use "surname" specifically to indicate an inherited family byname.)
    • A patronymic byname is a byname formed from an individual's father's name. For example, if <Johne Duncansone> is the son of <Duncan Redhed>, the personal byname <Duncansone> is a patronymic byname indicating that Johne's father has the given name Duncan.

The goal of this project is to ...

Right now this project just has one member, me. I am Richard Devlin.

Here are some of the tasks that I think need to be done. I'll be working on them, and could use your help.

Will you join me? Please post a comment here on this page, in G2G using the project tag, or send me a private message. Thanks!

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