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!


Has a Baby Name Ever Come to You in a Dream?

has a baby name ever come to you in a dreamTo find baby names, most of us turn to the same few sources: name books, name websites, family trees, life experiences, pop culture…

And then there are those lucky people who have gotten baby names straight from their dreams. Not daydreams — literal overnight dreams.

If you’re one of these people, please take a minute to fill out a short survey, 6 questions total. Why? Because I’d like to know more about this phenomenon. (Eventually I’d like to see if they can be reverse-engineered, perhaps using dream incubation techniques, but for now I’d just like to collect and analyze some data.)

So what do you think we should call a baby name that comes from a dream? An oneironym (“dream” + “name”)? How about a somnonym (“sleep” + “name”)? Something else?

3 More Baby Names from Dreams

So far we’ve talked about three baby names discovered through dreams: Easton, West, and Axl. Today we’ve got another three — two more from celebrities, one from a non-celeb.

Let’s start with the non-celeb: Selena Smith, career development coach at Spartanburg Community College in South Carolina. In an interview published about a month ago, she mentioned that the name of her 12-year-old son named Kyler “came to me in a dream while I was pregnant.”

Next we have actress/WWE wrestler Stacy Keibler, who said the name of her daughter Ava Grace (b. 2014) “came to me in a dream,” without elaborating. When asked about potential baby names a few weeks before the baby was born, Keibler said: “We just talked about one name and that was it–easy peasy. Everything with us has been easy and effortless, including the name.”

Finally there’s Pat Monahan, vocalist for the band Train. He said the name of his son Rock (b. 2012) came from a dream, but the person who had the dream wasn’t one of the parents:

“My sister-in-law was having these very intuitive, very intense dreams that [my unborn son] was visiting her and insisting that his name was Rock,” the singer, 43, tells PEOPLE.

After several episodes of baby boy revealing his name choice, Monahan admits they began to “take it real seriously” — especially when the expectant parents weren’t getting the message.

“She said that my son was coming to her and grabbing her face and saying, ‘Aunt Summer, my mom and dad won’t listen to me in their dreams. You need to tell them my name is Rock,'” he recalls.

“Then she had another one where he was wearing a [Colorado] Rockies uniform playing baseball. He was like, ‘Aunt Summer, look, my name’s on [my shirt].'”

Pat didn’t say how many name-related dreams Summer had in total.

Do you know of any other stories like these? Or, have you ever dreamed a baby name?

(Incidentally, a Kardashian baby born in late 2016 was named Dream, so “Dream” itself may see a boost in usage in 2016 or 2017.)

Sources: 20 Questions: Stacy Keibler Fills Us In, Stacy Keibler Says Picking Daughter’s Name Was ‘Easy Peasy’, Pat Monahan: How We Chose Our Son’s Name

The “Elda Rema” Baby Name Formula

baby name formula, elda rema

In his book The American Language, H. L. Mencken mentioned a “woman professor in the Middle West [with] the given name of Eldarema, coined from those of her grandparents, Elkanah, Daniel, Rebecca and Mary.”

The woman he’s talking about did exist, but Mencken didn’t get her name quite right.

Elda Rema Walker was botany professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. And so was her sister — here they are, listed one after the other, in the University of Nebraska General Catalog for 1916-1917:

elda rema walker, leva belle walker

(Leva Belle’s names were also inspired by family — parents Levi and Isabel.)

So here’s the Elda Rema baby name formula:

  • First name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandfather’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandfather’s name
  • Middle name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandmother’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandmother’s name

Using the names of your parents and your partner’s parents, can you come up with any usable first + middle combos?

The best I can do is “Aujo Elhe.” Hopefully you can do better…

Source: H. L. Mencken. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.

Free Download: Weighted Decision Matrix for Baby Names

Free Download, Weighted Decision Matrix for Baby Names, from Nancy’s Baby Names

Need to narrow down your list of favorite baby names? See how they really stack up with a weighted decision matrix!

There are several ways to access this free spreadsheet:

Instructions are included in the file, but here’s a summary: you write in the traits you’re looking for in a baby name and “weight” each of those traits by importance. Then, you write in the baby names you’re considering and give each one some ratings. The spreadsheet will do the math and reveal which name best fits your criteria.

The file has two sheets — the first is blank, the second is filled out, as an example. (I randomly used the names Alexander, Zachary, Bartholomew, Heath, John, Ian, Xavier, Lucky, Walter and Maxwell on the example sheet.)

Let me know if you experience any problems with the spreadsheet and I’ll do my best to help you out.

If you find this spreadsheet helpful, please share it on Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Thanks!

(This is an updated version of one of the baby name spreadsheets I posted years ago. Last week I posted the new version of the paired comparison analysis.)