How common it is for siblings to have the same first name?

The popular commercial is true, former World Heavyweight Boxing champ and Olympic gold medalist, George Foreman, boasts five sons, all named George. It happens! And there may be more to it than vanity. Depending on the culture, it can be very common for siblings to have the same given name. In the Netherlands and elsewhere, the naming of children adhered to rather strict conventions, and when a child died in infancy, another child in the family might be given the same name as the deceased child. It is not unheard of that the second (and possibly third or fourth) child also died, with the next child in line given the same name. In some cultures all male or female children in a family may be given the same first name but a different second name, and may be known by one or the other at different times in their lives. Also common and almost more difficult to unravel is the instance of cousins with the same name, all living in the same time period in the same general area. The convention of naming children after parents, grandparents, and siblings resulted in more Frances Parkers than you could imagine in late 1800s in South Carolina, and with fathers' also given family names, you might have a dozen or more Frances Parkers sons of Richard Parker in the space of a generation.

An study of naming practices within a given culture at a particular time in history can help researchers better understand and sort out the number of children in a family, their names, birth dates, and place in the family. If a family lived in the same area for a long period of time, parish christening records or other church records can be a good source for verifying the birth, death, and naming of children.

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