Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Naming conventions, also called naming patterns, are the rules and/or practice of that govern the naming of things or people. Patronymics is the practice of creating a surname based on the given name of the father. Other naming conventions assigned surnames based on an individual's occupation or where he lived. In some cultures, surnames were based on the mother's maiden name. In some cases specific patterns were used for naming children after parents, grandparents, and brothers, also for indicating generational succession: Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III or Edward Jr.
Understanding naming conventions is important to genealogy research, as names can sometimes indicate a place of origin and may provide clues to family relationships. Naming conventions can also create roadblocks for researchers when many individuals are found with the name and born near the same time in the same place, making it difficult to distinguish which person, if any, is the ancestor. Naming conventions may also apply to place. In Colonial America, for example, many communities named after a place in the home country; thus, place names may also provide clues to an ancestor's place of origin.