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Which Surname Will you Give Your Baby?

baby feetParents-to-be spend a great deal of time deciding upon a name for their baby. Usually, it is the first name that gets a lot of consideration. What about your baby’s surname? Today, a baby could be given the surname from either parent. The choice you make is an important one – for your baby and for future genealogists!

A surname tells a lot about a person. It can give clues to his or her heritage. It connects a person to (at least some) of his or her relatives. The surname you give your baby could make it easier, or more difficult, for the genealogists of future generations to find out more about their distant ancestor.

Baby Center has an in-depth article that discusses the pros and cons that come with selecting a surname for your baby. Their article is geared as a resource of advice for parents-to-be. Some of the key points they bring up also relate to genealogy (and genealogy research).

When two people get married, it is common for the woman to change her surname. She takes on her husband’s surname, instead. That surname is the one that is given to their children.

The advantage of this is that genealogists can track the child to his or her father. From there, it is possible to locate more members of the family. The disadvantage is that it becomes harder to locate vital records for women who changed their last names. The “maiden name” may have become forgotten over time. That makes it much harder to connect her to her parents or siblings.

What if the woman decided to keep her original surname? The couple has to make a choice about which parent’s surname to give their children. Another option is to give the baby a hyphenated surname that includes the last name of both parents. That option comes with its own difficulties, though.

Which surname should you choose? Here are some criteria that might make that decision a bit easier. Each can also make it a bit easier for your child’s descendants to learn more about him or her.

Give the baby its mother’s surname. This option is a good one for parents who have different surnames. Passing along the mother’s surname can help prevent her portion of the family tree from being lost to future genealogists. The father’s surname might already have been passed down to his nephews and nieces. Genealogists can connect to him through them.

Choose the surname that reflects the baby’s heritage. This is a good option for couples who come from different heritages. Select the surname that comes from a country or heritage that is different from the one your baby is being raised in. This gives the baby a connection to his or her heritage that may otherwise be overlooked. It gives future genealogists clues about where to look for more information about that branch of the family tree.

Image by Dean Johnson on Flickr.

Related Articles:

* An Ancestor’s Given Names

* Finding Information in Unexpected Places

* Through a Child’s Eyes

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