Irish Naming Conventions and Baptism Traditions

Not new, but good advice for those struggling to get back past the 1922 loss barrier in Ireland.

Here’s my TL/DR verson:

Irish Naming Patterns and Traditions

Before the Mid-1900s

  • Families followed a specific naming pattern for about 2 centuries.
  • This pattern can help identify potential ancestor names.

Boys’ Names:

  1. Paternal grandfather
  2. Maternal grandfather
  3. Father
  4. Eldest paternal uncle
  5. And so on…

Girls’ Names (Less Strictly Followed):

  1. Maternal grandmother
  2. Paternal grandmother
  3. Mother
  4. Mother’s eldest sister
  5. And so on…


  • Parents shared the same name
  • Child named after someone died young
  • Priest rejected a Gaelic name

Middle Names:

  • Not common for the poor
  • Identified by father’s name (patronymic)

Surnames as Middle Names:

  • Reserved for gentry or wealthy families

Double-Barrelled Surnames:

  • Usually due to inheritance or marriage

Infant Deaths:

  • Repetitive names suggest deceased child’s name being reused

Church Records:

  • Important genealogical resource, but with gaps and omissions
  • Baptism window: 28 years for couple, new baby every 1-5 years

Pre-Famine vs. Post-Famine Marriages:

  • Pre-Famine: Younger groom, bride’s parish, siblings as witnesses
  • Post-Famine: Older groom, inherits farm, seeks younger wife


  • Siblings/in-laws for tenant farmers
  • Close neighbors for Catholics after famine
  • Wealthy families: relatives or prestigious friends


  • Unusual sponsor surnames suggest in-laws, key to research
  • Follow sponsor’s surname to find new family branch

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