Update: She’s here! Scroll to the bottom to find out what they chose.
I’m a Jersey girl who married into a Very Southern family. Our son’s name is Frederick, in keeping with my husband’s family tradition. Our daughter is Palmer, which was my mother’s maiden name, but his family’s habit to use maiden names as given names.
Now we are expecting our third, and just found out we’re having a girl. If it was a boy, we were considering William or Ellis, or maybe William Ellis or Ellis William, both family names.
But now that it’s a girl, I’m stumped. My maiden name, and most of the surnames in my family, are long and complicated. (Palmer was the only one that worked, so it was an easy decision!) There are lots of names from his side that I like for a girl, including Landry, but I feel like our kids’ names are mostly from his side.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive about that … but, we have his family’s last name, we live near his whole family, near where he grew up. My husband gets this, and he’s perfectly willing to use names from my family. But I feel like he’s got all the good ones that I actually like!
One possibility might be Catherine, my grandmother’s name from the other (not Palmer) side. But Frederick, Palmer, and Catherine? I’m not sure I like that, either.
Please read on my for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Stephanie –
Congratulations on your third child!
Instead of talking about names, let’s talk about strategies.
Because you’ve hit on one of the reasons some parents avoid family names: it’s tough to use them equally. And I feel your struggle! In many ways, your kids are growing up in your husband’s backyard. And while it’s lovely that you’ve continued a family tradition, the impulse to hold on to your family history, too, is a good one.
Use part of a family name – I know a family with a similar situation; her name was a long, four-syllable German surname. She took part of the name – just two syllables – and used that instead.
Use a sound from a family name – Going even one step further, you might use a sound from a family surname that echoes a more familiar – and wearable – given name. The Polish surname Adamczyk could become Ada; the Italian surname Giuliani might become Julia; and so on. In some cases they might be related, but that’s a secondary consideration. I’d focus on sound.
Translate a family name’s meaning – So many surnames are occupational names, even in other languages. Zimmermann is Carpenter in German; Sarto is Tailor in Italian. Place names and descriptive names can work, too.
You might find some more inspiration here.
If none of these appeal, and you do end up using a first name from your husband’s side – and both Landry and Ellis seem like great options – that doesn’t mean your family names have to be out entirely. You can always tuck them in the middle – though I suspect that doesn’t really address the imbalance!
Which makes me think that maybe this baby’s name is Catherine. It’s not immediately a style match, but it fits your family’s pattern exactly. The theme is “meaningful family names” not “surnames for girls.” Should you have a fourth child in the future, it’s even less obvious that Catherine and Palmer don’t quite go together: Frederick, Palmer, Catherine, and Ellis. (I know, I know – one baby at a time!)
Another possibility? If matching style matters more, then would you consider choosing a name that’s deeply meaningful to you? Did you grow up in a town or on a street that might make a great name? Have a favorite artist or author whose name might work? The key is to make sure that all of your children have names with stories, so the younger child isn’t left out. But the stories don’t have to be identical at all.
I’m tempted to suggest names, of course. Hadley? Sloane? Blair? But I think this is truly an exercise in returning to your roots and finding a name that feels every bit as special as Frederick and Palmer, even if it takes some creativity to get there.
Lastly, you don’t mention if Ellis is from his side of the family or yours, and I know you have it on your list of boy names. But it strikes me as an equally good choice for a sister.
Stephanie writes: Thanks to everyone for their help! We hadn’t thought about Ellis for a girl, but when we read all the positive comments, it just clicked. We debated Catherine Ellis or Ellis Catherine until the last minute, but ended up going with Ellis Catherine. We call her Ellis Cate and Ellie Cate, too – loved that idea! Thanks again.
Ellis really is a great name that fits in with your current style. If it felt a little too masculine for your liking, you could play around with it a little – Elissa has the same sounds to honour the family connection but with the definite feminine ‘a’ ending.
If you like Catherine, you can always go for the surname Catesby to keep with tradition of surnames for girls.
C in DC says
I feel that Palmer’s sister is Ellis, especially with brother Frederick. (Or you could turn Catherine into Theron to honor Grandma). Ellis Catherine or Ellis Theron or (for a boy) William Theron.
You could blend your Jersey heritage in with some southern flare. Catherine Ellis is a lovely name and maybe if you have another boy he could be William Trenton/ Trenton William or William Hudson/ Hudson William for example.
Catherine Ellis sounds like an awesome name, just saying! I also agree that Ellis works for a boy or girl, great name.
Jean C. says
I’m going to vote for Ellis or Catherine.
My personal preference is Ellis. I think it’s as likely to be a feminine name as masculine. I like it with Palmer.
But I also like you getting to use important names to you/your side of the family and if that name is Catherine, then you should use it. My sister and I do not have names that “match” and somehow we still turned out okay 🙂 While it is so nice when names match on paper or while rolling of the tongue, really I think that is only actually important in that you don’t want one child to feel like their name is inferior, but I think the only risk of that would be not giving new baby girl an equally important name as her sister and brother. And if that name is Catherine, then Catherine is perfect!
Julie G says
Ellis Catherine or
Nn’s all over the place to choose from:
Cate, Catie, Cat.. even Ellie!
The Mrs. says
Style-wise, you might like the name Destry.
Frederick, Palmer, and Destry
Palmer and Destry SOUND like sisters.
But…is it meaningful to you? What if you added Catherine as a middle?
Best wishes to you and your family!
Landry Catherine or Ellis Catherine. She could go by a double name, such as Landry Cate or Ellis Cate so that you feel as though your side is ever-present.
I’m definitely on team maternal side. Or… maybe something that is a reflection of you and your husband? To me that’s a perfect set. His, hers, yours. Place you met, favourite song, wedding details?
But if Catherine is It and you just need to find a way to make it fit with the set, I love the suggestions of a nickname that would align it better, like Kick or Kit. Or use Catherine Ellis called Telly or simply Trip for being the third kid?
Or a double-name, would that fit the southern family? Catherine-Norris or Cate-Beckett or something? Your name means Crown, so maybe Kingsley or Rex?
Can you give us some of those names from your side that you think don’t work and we can help you get creative with them? With Frederick and Palmer, I’m not even sure what wouldn’t go! You’ve got options!
I think Catherine Ellis is the best choice. However, you need to ponder if you want more kids, cause you might wanna save Ellis for a boy (personally I find Ellis far more interesting than William so I’d name him Ellis William).
If your own family tree isn’t inspiring you, try important street names from your childhood. Brainstorm significant places you traveled. Think of locales important to your early relationship w your husband. Artists, authors, composers, entertainers.
I would try hard to make your 2nd girl’s name match Palmer better than Catherine! People will assume P is a boy if your 3rd carries such an obvious girl name. I did when scanning the post in my feed. Ellis is a very good option for a girl, as is Landry. Your wanting a name from your own side is logical! You just may need to try harder to expand your side’s options. I vote Catherine for a middle or an unused first.
I always loved Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy’s name
I think Kick would be a cute nn for Catherine.
For one, I love the name Landry….it was almost a serious contender for our second daughter until a coworker of husbands used it for their son. I wanted to spell it Landrie. Like others I actually think Ellis or Ellison is a great name for a girl as well and fits well in subset. Ellis Catherine or Ellison Cate is a great suggestion.
My favorite advice from Abby though is that each name should have its OWN story and they don’t need to be the same.
Can’t wait to hear what you choose.
I remember being surprised by the Southern naming traditions when I first encountered them, but I’ve gotten used to hearing sibsets with patterns similar to Frederick / Palmer / Catherine. While it may not be a common kind of sibset in the western US where I live, It seems not that unusual based on families I’ve met from the south. I love the idea of a Catherine called by the full name. Ellis is nice if the parents don’t mind giving it up for a possible future son; Willa (for William) is lovely as well. Mostly, though, I’m in the camp of naming this baby from mom’s family or family story.
I like Catherine Ellis as well. And I agree I wouldn’t need to match Palmer. Can a nickname help here as well?
I agree with the others… Ellis immediately stuck me as a really beautiful name for a little girl and also such a nice fit with Frederick and Palmer. I love the suggestion of Ellis Catherine! So lovely. Congrats on your third!
I’m voting for Catherine! It’s a lovely name, meaningful for your side of the family, and I wouldn’t worry too much about the mismatch in style between sisters. My name is long and feminine, while my sister’s is a tailored surname – we both love our names and I don’t remember anyone ever commenting on their difference!
Katniss, Katya, Kitty, and of course Katy/ie come from Katherine / Catherine they could be ways of honouring your relative. Ellis would be equally acceptable these days as a first or middle…
I really like the idea of finding a New Jersey place name that’s meaningful to you and can go incognito as a Southern surname name.
Or…I’m from the west coast so I really have no idea…but I’ve been lead to believe that Cape May is rather nice? Would a little girl named May feel subtly Jersified to you?
Kayleigh Kronyak says
I really think Ellis is the perfect name! With Frederick, Palmer, and Catherine there is a definite risk of people assuming you have two boys and one girl. While not a massive deal, could be bothersome to Palmer as she gets older. Frederick, Palmer, and Ellis sounds much more cohesive.
My immediate reaction to this post is that Ellis would be a great name for a sister! Ellis Catherine (or even Catherine Ellis) would fit right in with this subset.
I thought the same thing! Ellis is a great sister name for Palmer and adding in Catherine for your family is perfect with it <3
Brenna, that’s SUCH a good thought – she could even be Catherine Ellis, called Ellis …