Find More Family Names Over the Holidays

how to find more family names

It’s December! A month full of gatherings. Particularly family gatherings.

This is great news for expectant parents who want to find a family name, but haven’t had any luck with the obvious choices (like parent names and grandparents names). Family gatherings are the perfect place to dig a little deeper — for more names in the family tree, or for names that aren’t technically in the family tree, but that are strongly associated with your family in some other way.

All you have to do is start asking questions.

Essentially, you want to ask your older relatives about their personal history and best memories. This won’t just benefit you — it’ll make your relatives feel valued, it’ll make the occasion memorable for everyone, and it’ll keep the conversation focused (so that no one can veer off into, say, politics).

Here are some questions you could use. They’re geared toward uncovering important people, places, events, symbols, and other noun-y type things that might make good baby names. (If you have any other question ideas, leave a comment!)

Family Member Interview Questions

Self Where and when were you born?
What’s your full name?
Is there a story behind your name?
What nicknames have you had, as a child and as an adult?
Siblings If you had siblings, what were their names/nicknames?
Parents Where and when were they born?
What are their full names?
Is there a story behind their names?
Did they have nicknames?
What were they like?
What is your fondest memory of them?
(Did this happen at a particular place or event?)
What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with them?
Aunts & Uncles If you had aunts and uncles, what were their names/nicknames?
Grandparents Where and when were they born?
What are their names?
Is there a story behind any of their names?
Did they have nicknames?
What is your fondest memory of them?
(Did this happen at a particular place or event?)
What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with them?
Ancestors Do you remember your great-grandparents or any other older relatives?
What were their names?
What stories have come down to you about the ancestors you never met?
(Do you have any famous ancestors?)
What items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth are associated with any of these ancestors?
Family Friends What significant family friends do you remember?
What other people have helped your family in some significant way?
Family Memories What did your family do together? Think activities, traditions, locations, etc.
What is your fondest family memory?
(Did this happen at a particular place or event?)
What special items in your home do you remember?
Personal Memories
(childhood & teen years)
What did you like to do?
Where did you like to spend time?
Who were your good friends?
What special places did you travel?
What people (teachers, coaches, community members) were particularly helpful to you?
What is your fondest childhood memory?
What is your fondest memory of your teenage years?
What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with these times in your life?
Personal Memories
(adulthood)
What did you like to do?
Where did you like to spend time?
Who were your good friends?
What special places did you travel?
What people (friends, mentors, coworkers, community members) were particularly helpful to you?
What is your fondest adulthood memory?
What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with this time in your life?
Significant Other What is/was his/her name?
When and where did you meet?
If you married, when and where did you marry?
What is your fondest memory of him/her?
(Did this happen at a particular place or event?)
What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with this person/relationship?
Personal Highlights Describe the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to you.
Describe the time/place you remember feeling the most content and at peace.
Which person (either friend or public figure) has had the biggest positive influence on your life?

As you take notes, remember to be open-minded. Try not to dismiss any name right away.

First, because many names have other forms. So you might not like Grandpa Ivan’s name, but “Ivan” could lead you to something you do like: Evan, Sean, Gianni, Johnny…

Second, any name could end up being associated with multiple family members, and hence have a greater overall significance than you would have expected. Maybe you’re not so sure about your mother-in-law’s maiden name, Lloyd…until you hear some hilarious story involving your own great-grandfather and an ill-fated fishing trip to a place called Lloyd’s Creek, which helps you see “Lloyd” in a whole new light.

If you end up finding a great baby name this year after talking with your relatives, come back and lets us know!


2 thoughts on “Find More Family Names Over the Holidays

  1. Great post, Nancy – I have had great conversations with older relatives when talking about their childhood and teen years. Their eyes light up, and it’s especially fascinating when you hear stories about the Old Country. I’m smiling as I write this thinking of a few stories I’ve heard over the years.

  2. Thank you, Christina. Same for me! I love hearing older relatives talk about their experiences. Especially when they get into the details of what their day-to-day lives were like. So much fun to take a trip back in time with them. :)

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