Genealogy Research Tips – Scottish Naming Pattersn

The Scottish immigration into the New World was voluminous. Certain regions became bastions of Scottish traditions as they expanded from the Eastern United States to the West. In this article I give you some hints at extending your Scottish lineage by using traditional Scottish naming patterns.

It is likely that you have some Scottish ancestors somewhere in your lineage. As early as 1629 the Scottish had settled in Nova Scotia. In the 17th Century, many Scots were deported as criminals, many being sent to the New World. And, between 1842 and 1910 nearly one half million Scottish immigrants entered the United States. The earliest Scottish settlers came from Southern Scotland, and many of the later came from Edinburgh and other northern areas of Scotland.

My Ross lineage originated primarily in the North. My research into this ancestral line had hit a brick wall with the generation of my 2nd great grandfather, James Ross. There were several Ross families living in the three county area of southeastern Ohio in the mid 1800’s and I only had information passed down from a few of my older living relatives. Then someone put me on to the Scottish naming system, and I attempted to use it to aid in my research.

I knew the name of my great grandfather and several of his siblings. The oldest was Robert J. Ross, my great grandfather, and his only brother was named Joseph. So, using the naming system outlined below I was able to find my 3rd great grandfather, Robert Ross.

Up until at least the latter part of the 1800’s many families of Scottish were still using this traditional custom of naming children in a specific way.

Among the Scottish, the general custom, with some minor variations, was to name the children as follows:

  • the eldest son after the paternal grandfather
  • the second son after the maternal grandfather
  • the third son after the father
  • the eldest daughter after the maternal grandmother
  • the second daughter after the paternal grandmother
  • the third daughter after the mother

The younger children were often named after earlier forebears, but there was not a specific pattern after the third son or daughter.

So, to make the point briefly, I assumed that if the family had used this system, the given name of my 2nd great grandfather would be Robert. There were two Robert Rosses living in the area of Ohio where my great grandfather lived. I sent off for the wills of both. One proved to be the right one. It had the names of my great grandfather, James, the siblings I already knew, and the rest of his siblings. Robert’s son Joseph was executor of the will. I had found my 2nd great grandfather by using the traditional Scottish naming system. I already knew the 2nd great grandfather on my grandfather’s wife’s side. The naming there fit the naming system also.

If you have Scottish ancestors, check out the pattern and see if it was followed in your ancestral families. You may be as lucky as I was. Good luck.