What's in a Name?

Did you ever wonder why there were so many John and Winifred names among Jan Pieters Sjoeks and Wytske Roelofs Hoogland's grandchildren? Or why all of their children had the same middle name? Was it devotion to parents, custom or tradition? Probably it was some of each.

Until recent generations Dutch parents named their first son after the father's father. Thus Jan and Wytske's first son was named Pieter after Jan's father. The second son was traditionally named after the mother's father. Roelof Watzes Hoogland was Wytske's father. Roelof Jans was the second son of Jan and Wytske. The third son would usually be named after the child's father and so on down the line. If the father of each parent shared the same name, such as John, then they could "kill two birds with one stone." Such was the case with Pieter Jans Sjoeks and his wife, Anna Lavina Swart. Their father's name was John. Thus, they named their first son, John. Following this unwritten rule, some of Jan and Wytske's other sons also named one of their boys "John."

The first daughter was named after her father's mother. Doetje (Della), daughter of Jan and Wytske, was named for Doetje Antonij Siccama, Jan's mother. The second daughter was usually named after the mother's mother. In this case, it would have been Trijntje (Katherine). But since Jan and Wytske only had one daughter, they did not have the opportunity to use this name! And, because Wytske (Winifred) was the mother of six boys there are lots of Winifreds in the family.

The second or middle name of each child was the possessive form of the father's first name minus the apostrophe. This was done to clarify to whom that particular child belonged. Notice that all of Jan and Wytske's children except Sylvester, who was born in the United States, had a second name of Jans, since they were Jan's children. This was supposed to avoid any confusion but maybe it just added to it!

Hopefully, this helps to explain the presence of specific names occurring so frequently in our family tree.

The above story was submitted by Janet Shooks Dean. Information was obtained through conversations with relatives over the years and by researching our Dutch family trees.