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Same First Names: Father and Son

Same First Names: Father and Son

By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Summer 1997 and Revised 8 Dec 2005

What are the odds?

It is tempting, while searching for a father, to assume there is a 50-50 chance, or better, that he has the same first name.

Curious, I took 20 pages at random from our 1996 PRENTICE BOOK in the middle 1700s to see how many sons had the same first name as their father. Of 63 males, 9 of the sons (that's 1 in 7, or 14.3 percent) had the same first name as his father, but 54 (that's 6 in 7, or 85.7 percent) did not.

As one would assume, of the 17 fathers involved who had sons, the majority of the fathers (10, or 58.8 percent) named at least one of his sons after himself, but, interestingly, the remaining 7 fathers (41.2 percent) did not name a son after himself.

I also checked my own VALENTINE PRENTICE line from VALENTINE to myself and reached an almost identical result.

So, in that time frame, roughly half the fathers named a son after himself, the odds are only about 9 in 63, or 1 in 7, that the son you are researching is one of them. From a statistical point of view, by focusing on trying to find a father with the same first name, one may be focusing too narrowly. (This paragraph revised 1 Jul 2002 to correct math error.)

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