Use genealogy to choose a family baby names

Jun 3, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

Honor your ancestry with a creative baby name inspired by your very own family tree.

Photo credit: Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

Before your baby-to-be arrives, take some times to compile a family tree. While you're gathering your families' histories, you may just come across the perfect baby name.

Research your family tree

Make your baby the center of your tree, and build from there — one branch for each parent, and then more branches for their parents and so on. Start recording (online or with paper and pencil) every name, date and place you can come up with about your family. The tree, of course, can be written any way that makes sense to you. Search online for templates, or simply record everything you know in a notebook.

Gather photos (and be sure to label them with names, dates and places) and interview relatives for details to add to your tree. (You may be surprised by some of the tales your family can tell!) Visit courthouses to consult records, libraries to view old newspaper articles and cemeteries to confirm names and dates. Before long, you'll have a substantial history on file — a history ripe with baby name ideas.

Read more: British royals love to use their family tree >>

Take the straight path, with a twist

For generations, names have been passed down in perfectly straight lines. It was assumed that John's first-born son would also be named John (just like grandpa, great-grandpa and so on). While this tradition is great for keeping things in the family, it's not always ideal for the newest John, who ends up being nicknamed "Little John" or "Junior."

Straight-line naming trends can also cause headaches for future generations. Frederick Jr. may find out the hard way that Frederick Sr. had horrible credit (or a rap sheet), and suddenly he has a lot of explaining to do.

To avoid undesirable nicknames or identity confusion, why not shake things up a little? Modify the spelling (Jackson becomes Jaxon, Jacob becomes Jaycob) or use the straight-line moniker as a middle name instead.

Read more: Unique spellings for common names >>

Honor both families

Each parent has its own genealogy and thus can be honored by the baby's name. Combine the names of the baby's paternal and maternal grandmothers to come up with something fresh and new. Grandma Sue and Grandma Ellen will both be delighted when you name their granddaughter Sue Ellen.

Or take parts and pieces of various names from your families to build a new one. Uncle James and Aunt Ann's names might be combined to become Jan or Amy. How special and unique!

Read more: Classic baby names with a twist >>

Break rules

If you want your baby girl's name to pay tribute to her Great Uncle Steve, then consider calling her Stevia or Stephanie. Honor Godmother Micaela by naming your son Michael. Feel free to break gender guidelines to come up with a name that's a perfect fit for your unique situation.

Sometimes the relative you want to honor has a less-than-optimal name. Why not take a name that's too old-fashioned or too formal and go directly to the nickname? You don't have to name your child Rebecca to call her Becky.

Read more: Unusual unisex baby names >>

Utilize surnames

At one time, it was quite common for a child's middle name to be his mother's maiden name. Today, those unique surnames make perfectly acceptable first names as well. There is no reason why you can't call your child Collins, Johnson or even Smith! Look at surnames as yet another source of inspiration within your own family tree.

Read more: Names for your baby's future career >>

Honor places and things, too

As you compile your genealogy, make note of the cities, ethnicities and occupations of your ancestors. Tracked your family back to France? Name your daughter Paris. Discover that great-grandpa Samuel was a tailor? Name your baby Taylor in his honor. Your options are truly endless.

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