For years, when anyone would mention baby names I would always reply that I was very fond of classic family names. I really love that most people in my family can say who they're named after and why. For instance, I love being named after my mother and paternal grandmother. I love that my niece is named after me and my paternal grandmother. Now you say, what's the problem here? Well, all of the lovely family names that I would like to use are very traditional and sort of plain. Again you say, what is the problem? Well, I met, fell in love with, married, and am now carrying the baby for a man with the last name SMITH! Honestly, the day we met my first thought was "What in the hell will I name my children with the last name Smith, John and Mary sure won't work?"
As I mentioned, I am now pregnant with our first child, a boy due in May. We are so very excited but neither one of us can come up with a name. I always wanted to name a son John. This is the name of my grandfather and he quite frankly is one of the greatest people I've ever known. This feels even more emotional to me now as he passed away just this fall and my husband and I both agree it would be a great honor to use his name. However, we also both agree that we can't have a son named John Smith. We feel like it would be setting our child up for a lifetime of mocking, definitely not what we're going for in a name. We can definitely use John as a middle name but aren't finding a lot of first name option that "flow" well with it. We have also considered using John as a first name but calling him Jack or by his middle name. However, we both generally prefer to actually call the child by his first name and we still have the dilemma that the child's legal name would be John Smith so we're not really fond of that option either. Feel free to persuade us differently if you think we should be.
One additional issue is that the other family name that we absolutely love is Andrew. This is my husband's, his father's and grandfather's middle name. Pefect you say, name the child Andrew John Smith. Yes, sounds great. Only one problem. My husband has a nine-year old brother from his dad's 3rd marriage. That child's name is Andrew (middle name not John, but starts with J) Smith. My husband is 25 years older than this particular brother and they now live in a different state but we do try to maintain a relationship with him. As I mentioned, I love family names but using Andrew in this situation just seems really weird and not at all an appropriate use of the family name tradition. Probably another middle name option, but not a first name.
So, as you can see all of our brilliant name choices seem not doable in this situation. Neither my husband nor I can even seem to must up any excitment or energy for finding a name at this point because well if feels hopeless. If anyone has an idea, hopefully it's you. Do you have any good suggestions?
I think you might be able to use the name Andrew, saying lovingly to your husband's brother that you wanted to name the baby after his uncle. But it would definitely depend on the particular boy and on various other family dynamics. [Clarification, because it's causing confusion in the comments section: the relationship between the two Andrews would be uncle/nephew, not brother/brother. It's confusing because the first Andrew is so young, but he's the baby's uncle. I wouldn't come down on the side of naming two brothers or half-brothers the same name, but I think it's great when someone names a baby after the namer's sibling---that is, after the baby's aunt or uncle.]
Do you like the name Anderson? Anderson John Smith is smashing.
I am particularly sorry about the name John, because it's one of my own favorites and you have such a good family reason for wanting to use it. Oh, woe! I don't suppose Johnathan would work? Johnathan Andrew Smith, perhaps?
Okay, okay, let's not panic. Let's brainstorm.
1. Does your grandfather have a middle name that's less common? You could reverse them. Like, if his name were John Harrington Surname, you could name your baby Harrington John Smith.
2. What about your grandfather's surname? Any first-name potential there?
3. How do you feel about hyphenated first names? It's not all that common in the U.S., but you do find the occasional John-Paul or whatever. If your grandfather's middle name were, say, Robert, you could do John-Robert Smith. Or you could do John-Andrew Smith, to name your son after both of your grandfathers. I used to know a little boy who had a hyphenated first name, and it only seemed awkward at first---then it just seemed absolutely natural.
4. You could give your son your grandfather's name as his middle names. Er, perhaps I could clarify that sentence a little. If your grandfather's name was John Robert Surname, you could name your son Firstname John Robert Smith, or Firstname John Surname Smith. From my own experience, I can say it's not too much of a hassle to have two middle names.
5. I realize this is getting REACHY, but that's what brainstorming is for: you could switch to a family hyphenated surname incorporating your maiden name. All of you could have the last name Maiden-Smith or Smith-Maiden. John Maiden-Smith or John Smith-Maiden isn't nearly as much of a problem as John Smith, and may not be a problem at all.
6. I will try to tear myself away from the name John long enough to suggest that you look in your family tree for surnames that would make good first names. My own surname is too clunky with surname names, but a name like Smith might be great. Anderson Smith, for example, or Harrison Smith.
7. Those -son names come from literal usage (Johnson is John's son), so if your husband's name works for this you could make a -son name out of it.
Maybe none of these ideas make sense with the available names---we should really be talking about this over coffee and doughnuts, with a couple of legal pads and a stack of baby name books.
Name update 05-01-2009! Therese writes:
His name will be Jackson Fitzgerald Smith and he'll go by Jack. Like many of the commenters suggested, we really liked Jack because it's a traditional nickname for John plus it's just a great boy name. We chose Jackson as his official name b/c we were concerned that Jack by itself might be too informal as an adult. Fitzgerald was a lucky find for us. My father's name is Gerald, he doesn't like it and would not really want it to be "carried on" so to speak. I just happened to be researching Irish and Scottish names (as that's my family's heritage) and discovered that Fitzgerald loosely translates to "son of Gerald." It was a perfect find.
This is even more poignant now as my sweet father passed away just 3 weeks ago from a short battle with cancer. From his final diagnosis, he was adamant that he would make it until after the baby was born. Unfortunately, his body didn't cooperate. I know he will always be with us in heart and spirit but I'm so excited to have a very tangible way for him to be a lasting part of our son's life!