I was named Claudia because my father's name was Claude HENSON. I have a first cousin Claudine, also named after my father (her mother's favorite brother, I was told). Claude's middle name was Angus because his own father was called Angus (although it was his middle name). Although I have not found any of these names used in earlier generations of my HENSON tree, sharing these names certainly imparts a sense of family connection for these recent generations.
When I was a child, I really liked the fact that my name was relatively uncommon (although I admit that the name itself wasn't my favorite!). There were never any others named Claudia in my class and usually not even in my school, making me feel unique. And as I have no memory of my father (he was killed in a logging accident when I was very young), it gave me a special connection to him than I normally wouldn't have had. Yet I remember having rather inconsistent feelings about how I would name my own children when I grew up. At some point I decided I wouldn't name any of my kids after anyone in the family because I wanted their name to be uniquely theirs (this seems to be the "modern" way, where many parents now seem to almost invent names and/or spellings for their children, perhaps in an attempt to be trendy as well as unique, ignoring family heritage). At the same time I also wanted my future children to have less common names (Ann or John wouldn't do!), and names that couldn't be abbreviated (I think it was my grandmother who also expressed this preference?). And of course I had to like any given names I picked, and I could be quite picky! Needless to say I was influenced by current conventions and opinions of my elders, yet I remember being quite strong in these convictions.
So when it came time to name our own two boys, what did we really do? We ended up following these early decisions of mine only for our second son (choosing less common names that weren't used in either family and that we liked). However, we named our firstborn Russell William BOORMAN (now often abbreviated as Russ) after his father Terry (whose first name is really Russell, named after his father's maternal uncle Russell Kerfoot JOHNSTON who was killed in WWI) and after his paternal grandfather William Irvine BOORMAN (who our Russell never met) and after his maternal great-great-grandfather William ANDREW. (William is a very common name, and both our families have lots of them!) Terry obviously had a say in all this, and my interest in family heritage was already growing so my ideas were shifting. I was happy to oblige. Now that I'm fully addicted to genealogy I almost wish (but not quite) that I had at least partly followed this convention for our second child. Yet by the time he was born, my sister had already given one of her sons the middle name of Andrew, our mother's maiden name, so we're covered!
Both of Harriet Washbourne COMPTON's names came from Harriet WASHBOURN (nee ROBINSON), sister of Sarah COATES (nee ROBINSON) who was the maternal grandmother of the young Harriet. The original Harriet was the oldest child but didn't have any children of her own. So when her sister Sarah's daughter Mary had her first child, a girl, she must have decided to keep her aunt's married name alive in her daughter. Perhaps Mary also wanted a more physical reminder of her her own family, who were all in England while she far away in PEI Canada, having recently immigrated.
Russell Kerfoot BOORMAN, mentioned above, took on the maiden name of his mother Deborah Saphronia KERFOOT. Terry's father was William Irvine BOORMAN (known as Bill). An Andrew IRVINE married an Eva ROBSON, daughter of William Matthew Robson whose sister was Frances Jane ROBSON (Terry's great-grandmother). The ROBSON and BOORMAN families are quite intertwined, but it's still hard to understand why the married name of his grandmother's niece would be chosen for Bill's middle name. Perhaps because they were relatives also living in Victoria BC? Bill always abbreviated his middle name to the initial "I" and when asked, claimed it was his "private I"!
Finding surnames used as given names is like a goldmine for genealogists, although they might not always be appreciated by those on the receiving end, particularly if they were quite a mouthful to say, or if they became the focus of teasing or even ridicule. My mother and her sisters had a paternal aunt named Fanny Coates ANDREW (COATES being the maiden surname of her maternal grandmother Mary Robinson COATES, who also was given her mother's maiden name of ROBINSON as her middle name). Her parents no doubt didn't see any problems with this name, but her nieces found it rather funny that she was named after a garment, so nicknamed her "Fanny Pants", although hopefully not in her hearing! My own first name also gave rise to teasing - where did they ever come up with the taunt "claude hopper"? Children seem to take notice and target anything unusual for particular attention in creative and sometimes cruel ways.
Another family nickname I should mention: my Great-Grandfather Sydney Richardson was known as "Cheesy Richardson" as he was started the first cheese factory in Prince County, PEI, if not not whole of PEI, in the 1880s. And a final nickname story involves my mother Mabel and her two sisters Harriet and Eleanor. According to Eleanor, their nicknames for each other were dreamed up probably by Harriet, and names were based on 3 of their "older" aunts (not sure if they were selected based on mannerisms, popularity or what?). They were all likely connected to Granny Richardson (Ella Compton)'s side of the family. As I don't remember hearing these names used while I was growing up, this might have been just a childhood or perhaps a private activity between sisters.
- Mabel assumed the nickname Katie (after "Aunt Katie, Grandma Richardson's sister-in-law"). There were a couple of choices for this, with Grandma Richardson being Ella Compton. One options was Katie Clark who married Ella's brother Leopold Compton, or perhaps it was Ella's sister Kate Compton who married a relative William Henry* Compton.
- Harriet assumed the nickname Gertie (after "Aunt Gertie Compton") - there was a Gertie Mills who married a a relative Ernest Newman Compton but this wasn't as close a relative; another Gertrude married another Fred Compton in the USA - another more distant relative.
- Eleanor assumed the nickname Lizzie ("not sure which Aunt Lizzie") - perhaps it was Lizzie Andrew who married a relative Fred Compton, Grandma Richardson's brother.
The use of middle names as the favoured given name is a lot more prolific that I first assumed, at least in our family trees. Some families mad a real habit of it. Terry himself was christened Russell Terence and my paternal grandfather was named Henry Angus. Often the names naturally get reversed, even on legal documents and particularly later in life, perhaps because they're tired of all the confusion this can cause. Terry has for years abbreviated his name to "T R" for that very reason. So I wonder why parents often favour the middle name? After all, they are in control of the order as well as the names! One explanation I've heard is that it just sounds better one way than the other, rolls better offer the tongue, etc. but they prefer the one in the middle. I would also guess that putting an obligatory family name first (and the name you really want to use second) might appease older or more traditional family members. In a whole line of Thomas's (for instance), parents might feel seriously pressed to name their son Thomas as well, so a middle name might come in handy. In the "old days", middle names weren't used, and I am grateful they are now, even multiple names.
There are plenty of examples of idiosyncrasies and non-conventional naming methods used. I have seen names all starting with the same letter in the same family, rhyming names for twins, biblical names, and children named after famous people or favorite movie stars. In the mix there is always a few unfortunate names that fall into the category: "what were they thinking??!!. Double barreled surnames, with or without hyphens, can be used to retain the maternal surname (the Hispanic American naming customs seem better at dealing with this, although this is not evident in our trees). Names can also be chosen to commemorate friends, doctors, teachers, clergy, neighbours, and even local fallen soldiers (an uncle of mine was named this way). Places, objects and words from nature have also been used as inspiration. The list is endless.
In the end, names are what identify each of us as individuals, so we can thank our parents for our name as well as our life. If we don't like the name they chose, we have the power to legally change it, but caution is warranted. When names are legally changed, all record of the original name is officially erased, so be sure it's what you really want to do. My surname was legally changed at age 7, so I have experienced this. Regardless of your name, and regardless of whether there are others with your exact same name (and even the same birth date and place of birth), we are each unique!