Naming Patterns

While it's not unusual for sons to be names after their fathers, nor daughters to be named for their mothers, there is a customary convention that governed how families named their children. This is the convention:

  • The first son was named after his paternal grandfather;
  • The second son was named after his maternal grandfather;
  • The third son was named after his father;
  • The fourth son was named after his oldest paternal uncle;
  • The first daughter was named after her maternal grandmother;
  • The second daughter was named after her paternal grandmother;
  • The third daughter was named after her mother;
  • The fourth daughter was named after her oldest maternal aunt.


Then there's the (apparently quaint Southern) custom of keeping track of relatives in the family tree, particularly all those cousins, second, third, fourth removed. What does this really mean? It actually refers to the generational separation between two individuals belonging to a common family tree. Thus, a first cousin is of the same generation as the individual; the child of a first cousin is once removed, or separated by one generation. The chart below depicts the generational separation, for both older and younger relatives.

The Soundex System

Soundex was developed and patented by Robert C. Russell and Margaret King Odell. The Soundex code came to prominence in the 1960s when it was the subject of several articles in the Communications and Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery, and when The Art of Computer Programming. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) maintains the rule set for the official implementation of Soundex as used by the U.S. Government. These encoding rules are available in NARA's General Information Leaflet 55, "Using the Census Soundex".

The Soundex code for a name consists of a letter followed by three numerical digits. The letter is the first letter of the name, and the digits encode the remaining consonants. Consonants at a similar place of articulation share the same digit so, for example, the labial consonants B, F, P, and V are each encoded as the number 1. Thus, the Soundex filing system keeps together names of the same and similar sounds but of variant spellings; e.g. Yarbrough = Y616. In the 1900 Soundex, Yarbrough may also be found as Y610, and those families would be listed first.

Soundex cards have the name, race, month and year of birth, age, citizenship status, place of residence by state and county, civil division and, where appropriate for urban dwellers, the city name, house number and street name. The cards also list the volume number, enumeration district number, and page and line numbers of the original schedules from which the information was taken. The 1900 Federal Census is a significant schedule, as for the first time it gives the birth month and year, as well as age, the year of immigrations to the United States, and the number of children the wife has had, including the number living.

The population schedules, the most detailed yet, provide the name of each person in the household; address; relationship to the head of the household; color or race and sex, month and year of birth; age at last birthday; marital status; the number of years the wife has been married, the total number of children born of that marriage and the number living; places of birth of each individual and the parents of each individual; immigration and number of years in the United States; the citizenship status of foreign-born individuals over age twenty-one; occupation; whether the person can read, write and speak English; whether the home is own or rented; whether the home is a farm; and whether the home is mortgaged.

Page last updated July 28, 2022
© Blount County Historical Society, 2022.
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