But, What About the Boling Bunch–How did Dad Get his Middle Name?

Ignoring the variations in the family members spelling of the last name, my dad, Frank Burton Boling (84), ever since he was a child, has wondered where his middle name came from.  As most women will tell you, mothers/female family members are generally the keepers of family histories and are the ones who pass them along to their children.  In my dad Frank’s case, his mom, Helen Chambers, was a teen aged mom who left her husband, Jesse, and three small children when Frank was only five. And, Jesse and the children struggled along in Washington, DC, away from the Bolling family core in and around Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Virginia.

After many years of working periodically at my family genealogy, I have spent the last 18 months catching up and developing a regular schedule devoted to documenting my family’s history.  I am now pleased that I can finally tell dad exactly where his middle name originated. But, let’s look first at naming conventions in general. On first glance, our ancestors’ names appear in our tree as if they were chosen at random. But, when I looked closer, I asked myself if there was a particular naming convention followed, and if so, what was it?’.

When I looked at clusters of names in my tree and the multiple families within it, I saw examples that some families had chosen first names from the same small pool of first names from generation to generation and rigidly stuck to something like this: ‘the first son is always named after the father’s father; second son after the mother’s father; third son after the father; and, the first daughter after the mother’s mother, the second daughter after the father’s mother, and the third daughter after the mother. This naming convention holds true today in Scotland.

And looking again at the clusters I made the connection across families.  My dad’s middle name, ‘Burton’, was in fact a surname from a female’s maiden name, which was her mother’s maiden name. And, in my Bolling family tree’s example, William E. Burton and Margaret Robins had a daughter, Mary Burton, who married Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr. and their daughter was Mary Burton Bolling. These names happen to be from notable family members who were among the first pioneers in Virginia. And beginning with the Mayflower and John Rolfe and Pocohantas, we can see the Roberts’, Johns’, and Marys’ first names were repeated from the first generation through the eight generation, below.
1 John Rolfe 1621/22
… +Pocahontas 1595-1617
…2 Thomas Rolfe 1614/15 –
…….+Jane Poythress 1630-1679/80
………… 3 Jane Rolfe 1650- 678
……………… +Robert Bolling 1646- 709
………………….4 John Fairfax Bolling 1676/7-1729
……………………… +Mary Kennon 1679-1727
……………………………. 5 John Bolling 1699/00-1757
……………………………….. +Elizabeth Blair 1708/09-1775
……………………………………. 6 Robert Bolling 1738-1775
………………………………………… +Mary Burton-1764
…………………………………………….. 7 Mary Burton Bolling 1764-1787
…………………………………………………… +Robert IV Bolling 1759-1839
……………………………………………………… 8 Mary Burton Augusta Bolling 1787-1853

Throughout history, further examples like:  Richard Milhous Nixon, Hillary Rodham Clinton; tell us many families have used a forebear’s maiden name as a middle name for their children, but this seems to have been a personal preference, not a convention. And the other example for choosing a middle name comes from parents wishing to show their admiration or respect for another individual.

So the best I can say based upon my brief research into naming conventions is that some of America’s families today may have and follow their own naming conventions but, there are no prevailing naming patterns, even for last names– taking them or not taking them, hyphenating each of the couple’s names to make them one.  And now with same-sex partners, is the convention that each partner just maintains their original surname?  Ah, but those are stories for another day…

And dad, I hope as our Boling family patriarch, that identifying the people from whom your name came from so many generations ago and learning more about who they were in some small way gives you a greater sense of self and family.

 

‘…And That’s the Way They All Became The Brady Bunch’

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