Should You Ask Permission Before Using a Family Name for Your Child?
What’s in a name? Plenty, if it's plucked from your family tree.
Choosing baby names can be a challenging business. Picking a moniker out of thin air isn’t for everyone, which is why so many couples want to delve into their family trees to find names with ancestral significance. But that choice can bring with it complications—what if your siblings or cousins want to use the same family names? Like we said: a challenging business. So, do you have to check with your family and ask permission before you choose a family name for your child? Let’s lay out the arguments.
There are two possible answers to this question: yea or nay. Those in the “nay” camp have a few good points:
“I’m having my child first, so I have first choice of family names, right?”
“My family doesn’t own these names. I can use whichever ones I want.”
“It’s my choice and my kid—I shouldn’t have to ask my family’s permission.”
“It’s not a big deal if my sister wants to use the name too. Who says two kids can’t share the same name?”
“What’s in a name?”
That last argument is actually Shakespearean, but we think it can apply here. Some argue that, if you want to use a family name for your child, you do need to get permission from other family members—or at least notify them. This camp has a few compelling arguments too:
“It’s just polite. If a sibling has their heart set on a name for their future child, you don’t want to step on their toes.”
“If you don’t check, there could be issues. Communication is always the best bet.”
“Chat with everyone and get their input—you may also get to hear some good family stories in the process.”
“You have to ask. If you don’t, inevitably someone will tell you you’ve stolen the name they wanted to use.”
“When you’re having a baby, you want all the support you can get from your family. Keep the goodwill flowing by keeping your family in the loop.”
So which is correct? It’s certainly a personal choice, but we think that checking with family and running name choices by parents and siblings is a wise part of the naming process. Why? These names are part of each family’s collective history, and they’re also a resource that each generation has the opportunity to use. In this case, sharing is indeed caring.
If an issue does arise, the argument “I’m having my child first, so I have first choice of family names” is usually a compelling resolution. Sometimes families find compromise by using the preferred name as a first name for one child and a middle name for another. The options are endless, and there’s almost always a way to have this conversation without ruffling family feathers. (However, calling dibs on names years in advance is another story entirely.)
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Do you agree? Are you hoping to use a family name, or did you? Would you recommend asking permission first?