Crowe Genealogy Ireland and the World Pic 1


Problems with the Irish Naming Pattern

The standard issue here is that potentially a child, the father and the grandfather can all be living under one roof with the same name.... the same applies for women's names too, of course.


You need plenty of children.....

Although the naming pattern starts with the first child you will not see the range of existing family members if there are not a lot of children. Sometimes this is compensated or complimented by the children in families of known siblings.


Men were 'married' more than once

Three was an accepted maximum. If a man was a farmer it would be important to have help and there was an acceptance that he would have a year to grieve and a year to court,... however, timings may be different. How this affects the naming pattern if there are already children is not clear from my research but so many women died with the first childbirth that a second wife need not have any effect on the naming system? The first girl of a second or third marriage could be given the name of the previous wife to respect the first wife's position and honour her memory.


The dad can be producing children up to 60yrs of age and allows a son, usually the eldest but sometimes the youngest to take over the farm. The son can then assume the father's role at weddings, especially if the father is incapacitated in some way.


Distinctive names

It may be that the names are distinctive enough. I have records of Andrews and Anastasias that form a continuing line and rarely seen in other families.


Another useful idea is looking at the clusters of names in a family. Although William is a common name in old Irish families it rarely occurs in family lines - possibly because of its English connotations, esp William of Orange.


Look for 'unusual' names coming with the second son (the mother’s father). Boys seem to have this effect more than girls (anecdotally).


Equally the division in the family lines often leads to the re-use of names. So, for example, James and John are found in one side and Timothy and Thomas in the other. Never conclusive proof but a useful way of estimating whether another tree or family group is likely to lead to a connection with another?


Was There a Marriage?

Not all pairings in Ireland had recorded marriages. Re-marriage in church was only allowed under certain strict conditions (and still is today in the British Isles. One such condition was the (very common) death of the mother in childbirth - the attrition rates are quite staggering. Also, something like 30 - 35% of couples in my marriage records never had a child or only one child. How many of those were deaths and how many mothers suffered irreparable damage after a first pregnancy, making more kids impossible we can only guess.


There may be a gap.......

So, you collect a list of, say, four children for your couple and the children appear to come regularly enough. If there is no wedding, then there is no way to know if the first child, is the first?


Where a marriage record does exist there can be a gap before the first child. Some advocates used to push the idea of marriage without kids for maybe two years to allow the couple time to grow together. Some parishes show this more than others.


Parish records started at different times, even in adjacent, parishes. For the earliest sets of children you may be looking at the tail end of the family and not the complete set?


Biologically, kids are not always produced on demand and it can take some time for systems to function properly. There is also the question of getting the sex thing right .... better discussed elsewhere!


The first pregnancy can miscarry or self abort. Little understood then, it is a way of the body rejecting the growth of the foetus for its own reasons. Malnutrition, stress and a number of other things can bring on the rejection of the foetus early. Its a natural process.


It is not uncommon to have a gap in the middle of a run of children. You can imagine a host of reasons for this? Tiredness, hunger, economics ….....


Most of my contemporary mothers who wanted four children managed to get to number three before they acquired the family dog instead. (Practicalities of five-seater cars may have something to do with this - the extra one goes in the boot!). Back then there was no assistance with food and the mother was expected to work too. Agriculture was a back breaking, labour intensive job with little time for anything else? You will notice many many marriages are held in the winter months not during the growing season?


Most common month for marriage is February- if a baby is conceived early on, the pregnancy starts when food starts to be grown again, it is warmer (possibly drier) and the birth will be after the harvest?


Other reasons for gaps can be relocation. In the early 1800s people did not move so far but they may move have to move for work, changes in rental agreements. Landowners move on, sons inherit and maybe have different ways and prefer different people working for them.


One thing I was surprised about was syphilis. I knew it as a destructive disease but assumed it was incurable. However, I have read in genealogical sources that the natural cycle of it can be around 6-8 years. It is of course destructive to mother and foetus in pregnancies and may be responsible for deformities or no pregnancy at all. As, of course, other diseases such as measles can do the same. Gaps of 6-8 years are common.


One thing that is really noticeable in collecting 3000 Irish baptismal records is the regularity of the appearance of children. You will read different accounts of how a child every year for the first few years and then a slowing rate after that was the norm. This may be down to local rules because the rates can be very different. A man I met in Spain had three children with ten years in between, almost to the day! I have examples of birth rates three, four,five and seven year gaps too. However, most seem to work on an 18 month cycle to begin with going to two years, then three or five. What is good about this is that if it is important you can look for the possible child that got missed or badly transcribed in transcription. The Irish RC Parish records were rushed out at an unprecedented speed and there are many, many errors but some are not justifiable and there seems to be little effort in rectifying it other than asking us to report errors (In my case somewhere between 5 - 10% of all the records!).


You need to know the wife’s surname?

No, not your own spouse but the ancestor’s wives. It is noticeable that in old records, especially in the 1700s, wives are just listed as Mrs Murphy and there is no idea of a maiden name nor where she came from. Sadly, women at this time were the man's property in the same way a farmer had rights to land!


In small communities with local records it is possible to research possible wives families but it will probably only be an association of location, year and first names?


Here witness or sponsor names may be useful? The sponsors in Ireland up to the famine in the middle of the 1800s were usually siblings and or their partners. Social politics and parents also make an appearance here but almost always the family siblings are used first. Look for other families with your surname in question as sponsors and reciprocating the compliment. This may involve trawling through some of the parish register but can be really useful revealing names that otherwise do not appear in official records.


A name is not liked

It is not always a question of fashion as in modern times. Names become associated with events. Families being families, there are always going to be differences and rifts. Using the naming pattern may become a source of aggravation.


Over the thousands of records I have seen, you can find one name desperately repeated three or four times in a family, only to see that named child die young, again. Heartbreaking but do you continue to use the name, honouring the ancestor and duty or do you change the luck by using a different name? In Ethiopia I met a man called Mituku and all names have meanings. I asked him what it meant and he said, the best translation is, “the one who survived after the one who died”. At first I was surprised and felt a little sorry about his name but then realised, what a celebration it was for the family, who needed children as their pension system when they got older. It was a success story!


If a name is associated with something bad would it be used the next time round?


A name is preferred

The first children are often dutifully named but as the list of children gets longer the order and choice of names begins to be more preference than obligation. A lot of the ‘old order’ went with the famine and some before. However, even in the early 1900s it is possible to find the structure in a family.


Here names are conserved rather than the order? In the Leary families I researched I found names like Humphrey repeated and often lead back to a specific parish in Cork county.


Again groups of names are kept, so you may find Patrick, Michael and James repeated in some order. The same being true for girls names too, of course.


My Aunt was to be named Irene but on the way to the church a family disagreement broke out and then it became Nora by the time she had been to church. Later she changed it to Noreen as she did not like Nora!


There is a tradition too to call the first girl Mary (citation needed) this messes up the naming pattern but keep it in mind as a possible reason why it does not work?


Name confusion

Children were given one name to go with their surname but the naming pattern means that grandfather, father and son, probably living under the same roof or close by, would have the same name and surname. This often lead to people skipping the convention of the third name.


Children were given middle names too. Although they were not officially recorded until nearer 1900 they would be known by middle names and so when the christened Patrick died and he had been known all his life as Jimmy, what would the records show? Especially if all his family had gone or he had moved from his origins?


If husband and wife both have a mother called Catherine there would be no need to have two Catherines in one family, so the naming pattern is abbreviated.


It is more than normal to have your name changed for you.

Nicknames are a way of life in British Isles cultures and those cultures around the world influenced by the historical impact of the British Isles on them. This has lead to a massive change in spellings and names used for given names but also for surnames and again, name confusion.


Womens Names.....

Not treated with the same respect in my experience? Women were definitely possessions and priest are inclined to forget or get a near hit. Judith, Julia, Jane and Joan are all madly interchangeable. Sally / Sarah too. Anne, Nancy, Anastasia is another. Women’s names are much more volatile in these church records. Even State Records (SR) can show these variations.


I asked the head of my local primary school why most of the time he called the mothers Mary. He said he had been a Head for 30 years and couldn't possibly remember all the womens names at school and the  church he attended. Are they offended I asked. “No....” he said, “they all know I can't remember so no one takes offence! Confusing if you are a new parent at the school? :)


Then there are weddings

You have three men as Sponsors at a wedding and maybe none are with family names or names found amongst child sponsors. When I first saw this, I laughed a little thinking it might be a 'shotgun' wedding! Three men as witnesses.... However, common sense prevailed. There are good reasons for this and three people as wedding sponsors is not uncommon.


First, men tend to prevail which suggests this is important, though there are all women witnesses too! All weddings are importan but the witnesses involved may be from the church community or even priests. Some of this may be status seeking but sometimes the men are there as guarantors when there is potential for changes in inheritance or wealth that will come about due to marriage. I have heard that inter family connections between strong family groups or families with disputes are often recognised in a similar way when a marriage connects the two groups.


It may be that there are people in the community who are from long standing family connections, long since lost or people who acted as part of an extended family that are recognised / honoured by being witness. I am sure everyone knows an 'uncle' or 'aunt' that is not really a biological relative that has a positive influence in the family and particularly on one of the wedding couple?


Having a relative as a priest can also be important and so, by invitation / request, they may take the ceremony over or combine with the incumbent priest. This is not always made clear and it is good to look up and down the page at who the priest was - if it was recorded. Many parishes had the one priest. This is still relevant today.



Seamus Crowe          Website2021