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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum

African-American Naming Patterns

African-American Naming Patterns

Given Name:
During Transatlantic Transit Period
Generally biblical so dubbed by the boat captain or the slave trader
and the eventual owners.

During the Plantation period
Name was that of grandparents for first born
Name was that of parents for second born
Name was that of aunts or uncles for third born
Name of subsequent children was of trusted person
Frequently named for a deceased family member
Naming was frequently a ceremonial event
Name often indicates day of week one was born

Following Freedom
Same as during the Plantation above
Named for a town or city
Named for a celebrated person
Named for a town or city
Named for the uniqueness of the individual
Frequent use of nicknames
Use of initials

Today
Same as in the period following freedom
An increasing number of children are given African names
An increasing number of parents create culturally specific names

Surname:
During Transatlantic Transit Period
None used or used infrequently

During the Plantation period
Generally had two names
• One given by slave owner
• One given by self and kept secret

Following Freedom
Few used name of last legal slave owner
A majority seem to have used the plantation period secret name
Many changed name to name of first legal owner
Many used name to indicate kindness for prior owner
A few changed to a name they liked for whatever reason

Today
An increasing number of adults legally change to an African surname

For further information please see:
The Black Family in Slavery And Freedom 1750-1925
by Herbert G. Gutman, 1976, Vintage Books.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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