Friday, April 4, 2014

West Family Given Names

West Family Given Names
Contributed by John G. West

I was reading over some of the research that has been conducted on our West family branches.   And I decided to look over some of my notes on families with the West surname that I have encountered over the last 30 plus years to check for any connections to these newly discovered branches.  One thing I discovered was that the West families that are related to us did not want to have many of the males given unusual names.  They really wanted names like Richard, William, John, Robert, James, Philip, with some named Charles.  But, the all time favorite seems to be Thomas!  Granted because they had so many sons that you can find some named Henry, Claibourne, Ignatius, Nathaniel, George, Samuel, Edward and a few more names common to the times, but there were very few exceptionally unusual names.

Often, in a particular small area, you can find many Thomas West all about the same age or several possible fathers & sons mixed in with a nephew or two.  Sorting all of these Thomas’s out is very difficult and often times easily confused in people’s research results.  This is why we, as researchers, need to be very careful not to assume “who is who” and their relationships.  Once assumptions are made, it becomes difficult to correct, especially over time.

By the time my grandfather came along less common names were being used for many of the boys.  My grandfather Warner West is an example with a less than common name among the hundreds of other West males in the area (although there were at least two other West’s with that name in Christian County, Kentucky).  Warner had a brother, Gaither who died at age 22 of an appendicitis attack.  Warner named his only son after his brother, but added a middle name – my father was named Gaither Glennis West.  Dad named his first born son (my older brother) Gaither Glennis West, II… who named his first son Gaither Glennis West, III. 

You may have noticed that in recent times the West family (at least my branch) strayed away from such common names and actually picked some rare ones.  However, they did not quite get it right, since they just made the more unusual names very common in the family!

The family called Dad, Glennis; my brother, Glen and my nephew, Glennie.  Glen did make an effort with giving his second son the name of Scott Wilhelm West.  Mom & Dad named me John Gregory West, how many Greg West or John West’s do you know?  They tried a little harder with my younger brother Donald Gene West!  But, what did I do with the names of my 3 sons?  Phillip, John & James… back to the common names!!!  My only grandson is named Evan West… going in the right direction.  Evan’s middle name is John – oh, well!


  1. Letta Brock Stone (1928): "A glance at the [1790] census lists reveals at once the extreme difficulty in tracing certain individuals. Too often their identity is masked behind such constantly recurring names as John, William and Thomas. Thanks to the originality of some parents of two centuries ago, however, unalloyed joy fills the genealogist who happens upon such distinctive names as Salathiel, Zephaniah, Theophilus, Onesiphorus, and Eleazor." -- West Family Register, p. 2.

  2. You are so right, I am so excited to find some of these very unusual names in families since we can usually connect them to a single family. The only two drawbacks are when the handwriting is difficult to read or when the family decides they have a winner and everyone names their kids the same odd name.