Questions about honoring a family member

Honoring family members when naming a child is a big tradition in my family, but I have a few questions about it that I was hoping you guys might have opinions on. 

1) When honoring a family member, is it unfair to use more names from one side of the family than another? We used my father-in-law's first name for our son's middle name, and we used my paternal grandmother's first name as my daughter's middle name. We are now expecting our third child, and we will be honoring a family member on my side with the middle name. I have 2 more namesakes I would like to use, 1 boy and one girl. However, the boy name happens to be the name of my paternal grandfather. I love both sides of my family equally and both namesakes were very important people in my life. For some reason I feel like I'm being rude by just honoring my dad's side of the family. Should I use the name, or pick a different one? 

2) I was also wondering if theres ever a relative that's too distant to honor. I don't mean someone like my great-uncle's second cousin, but more along the lines of my great-grandmother, the baby's great-great grandmother. She passed away when I was very young, but she was extremely important to my mother. Do you think the connection is too distant, or does it work?

Sorry, I know that was kind of confusing. If you have any opinions and/or suggestions, I'd love to know! 


December 27, 2013 12:06 AM

I guess the answer to your first question depends on the politics of your and your partner's families. I made certain the names were divided evenly between my husband's family and my own, and where there was a possibility of upset I let he gender of our children decide (eg if it were a girl, she would have my family's name, if a boy, he would have my husband's family name).

I think in relation to your second question, honouring your great-grandma is also honouring your mum - referencing the bond your mum had with her grandma would demonstrate the bond you hope your daughter has with her grandma (ie your mum). 

My middle name stems from my great grandma's name, its also part of my mum's name, and I would use it for my daughter if I were blessed with one. My son's middle is from my great-grandfather, who I never met, but the name is repeated in my dad and brother's names so it's more of a general family name now. 

December 27, 2013 1:45 PM

1) It totally depends on the family dynamics. In our family, DH doesn't much care for most of the names on his side of the family nor does he super care about honoring anyone in his family. Whereas there are people on my side of the family that I really wanted to honor and DH just liked the names, so we used the names we like. It helps that his younger sister honored her side of the family with each of their kids, so there's less obligation there, and we would have stepped on toes if we had.

As for MY paternal vs maternal family, we've pretty much (so far) only chosen my paternal side. Now part of that is because the names on my maternal side are not really names we like, but it also helps that my siblings have chosen to honor the maternal side, so I feel free to honor the side that suits our naming style.

2)  Nope--My children each have a name from one of my paternal great-grandparents (the kids' great-great-grandparents). My son also has my husband's first name as a middle name (which was also my DH's grandfather's name). My daughter (accidentally) ended up with a name that is almost identical to DH's great-great-great grandmother. Obviously that was not intended, but it does make it a "family name" without the purposeful "honoring" of the family member. 

I think the only ones that really are too distant to "honor" is when no one alive remembers that person. In your case, it is honoring both your great-grandmother and your mother by choosing the name of a person that was dear to her. I vote yes.


December 28, 2013 12:57 AM

1) Being from the south, my first instinct is to say keep it even or don't do it at all.  Although, I have to go against what has been ingrained in me and say ultimately, it's up to you.  If someone gets upset about it, chances are they will have the common sense to keep it to themselves and get over it, as adults should.


2) I don't think any name is too distant, especially if it is a name you like.  I mean, people are naming their children after celebrities and characters in books and movies!  A name from the family definitely makes sense, even if it is from an older ancestor or relative.


I prefer using a derivative of the name rather than the exact name, so I am still paying homage but it is not an exact replica.  Maybe that could help calm the stormy waters of the family.

December 29, 2013 9:28 PM

I think it definitely depends on the politics of your family. I was lucky enough that my family and my husband's family don't care overly much if we used family names; we wound up using them, but it was a decision that came down to my husband and myself without consideration to everyone else. We also managed to find names to honor both sides of the family at once - my son's middle name is James which was my great-uncle's name, as well as my father-in-law's confirmation name and my daughter's nickname is Mae which is a diminutive of Mary (my husband's paternal grandmother's name) as well as being the month in which my maternal grandmother was born. For our third, I THINK I have names figured out and if it's a boy, will honor my husband's side of the family, but a girl wouldn't have a family name. I really think that it depends on what names you actually really like. 

I also don't think your situation fits in the "too distant" category here. A great-great grandparent isn't that far, actually, AND you did say that it has great significance to your mother. My daughter wound up with a family name as her middle name (we picked the name and THEN I found it on the family tree) so whenever extended family said anything about her middle name, I just said "It's a family name" and it shut them up. BUT the person she's "named after" is MY great-great-great grandmother; my daughter's 4x great grandmother. Now, I openly admit that I didn't really name her after this woman (who I, obviously, never met and who I know NOTHING about), but if I HAD...I think that that is "too distant" to really honor someone. At least in my case. (If I was able to uncover one of my ancestor's lives like they do on that show Who Do You Think You Are, I might be inclined to name one of my kids after them.)

By mk
December 30, 2013 5:04 PM

1. No, it is not unfair. I think family names should be chosen because the person being honored is important the parents. If they all come from one side of the family, so be it.

2. That is not distant at all.

January 25, 2014 1:44 AM

1. I think it depends on your family dynamics and also on which side needs honoring. Are you naming after people who have passed or are alive? My so's family, for example, is pretty much all living (all 4 grandparents, all aunts, uncles, cousins, etc...) so I would want to pull from my side of the family.

For another perspective, some grandparents wrote in wondering why their side of the family was being left out of naming...

2. You can absolutely name your child after its great-great grandmothe. Really you can name your child anything you want, but I don't think it would be weird. If you do name your child after your great-grandmother, tell him/her that they were named so because great-grandma was kind, intelligent, and hardworking (or whatever).