What’s in a name?

It seemed appropriate to start this blog with the story of my own name. Just as my maternal Gran ignited my passion for genealogy, she was also responsible for choosing my name. An avid Scrabble player, she took the initials from family names and arranged them to give:

M – Aunt Muriel; E – Great-Granny Elizabeth Edward; R – Grandad Robert; L – Grandad Laing and E – Mum Elizabeth.

As I child I wasn’t grateful for my name. At school, I stood out from the Kirstys and Morags in my class – not always a good thing. In adulthood it has resulted in some hilarious spellings. My favourite has to be Merie. However now, as a genealogist I’m particularly thankful to Gran.


Well it makes me think why Betsy was called Betsy or why Horace is known in the family as Bert. When I started researching our Palmer Family Tree, my father-in-law didn’t know his grandmother’s maiden name. When I discovered it was Jeffery his brother piped up, “oh yes I was named Jeff after her”!!

I learned something very useful that day – always question where a name came from.

For many families the traditional Scottish naming patterns dictated by the order of birth if a baby was named after their parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle. However, look beyond the first to the middle name and a family connection might be uncovered. Of course sometimes, there is no link to the family. The choice of name may have been based on the parents’ favourite film stars, military commanders or even the doctor who delivered the baby.

My name is not unique; when I married into the Palmers I discovered I shared it with five members of my husband’s extended family. Gran’s choice of name is nevertheless always a talking point. It also reminds me to consider the possible origins of a name – another tool in the genealogical research process.

I think my Gran would be pleased.