Posted by Ancestry Team on August 27, 2009 in News

It turns out the trend of keeping baby names ‘all in the family’ is more popular than you might think. We were curious to see how many parents turned to their family tree for inspiration when choosing a baby name, so we conducted an independent survey to find out. Check out what we learned:

  • Nearly half of all Americans were named after a family member.
  • Of those, approximately one-third were named after their father, around 17 percent were named after their grandfather, and an estimated 15 percent were named for their grandmother.
  • More men than women were named after a family member.
  • In fact, 20 percent of men were given both their first and middle names after a family member.

We also looked to the family trees of some of America’s hottest celebrities to see the baby-naming patterns they had adopted.

Last Names as First Names

  • Reese Witherspoon, born Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon, was given the name Reese after the last name of her mother’s ancestors. Her grandfather, Emmett Reese, and his parents BJ and Elizabeth Reese, are found in the 1920 Census.

Reese Witherspoon 1920 Census

I am Henry the Eighth I Am

  • Tom Cruise, or Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, comes from a long line of Thomases as witnessed in the 1930 Census, which shows his great-grandfather Thomas C. Mapother Sr. working as a lawyer in a circuit court.

Thomas Cruise Mapother Sr. 1930 Census

Mixing it Up: A French Spin on a Family Name

  • Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt looked to their family trees for inspiration when naming the twins Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline. Marcheline is actually the French-sounding name of Angelina’s late mother.

For more interesting baby-naming stats and celebrity factoids, check out our news release.


  1. Marilla Epperly

    I found that to be so true while researching the many branches of my tree. You can see the names that were so common with in the family and the mother’s maiden name becoming the middle name of the children. You can get lost, if not careful! If not tired of typing the same name over and over again.

  2. Judy Kozee

    Speaking of names, my nephew just recently picked a name for his new baby from a list of ancestor names I had printed out for him from my family tree.

    Also speaking of names, how can I make the search engine on here search for a last name which is a very common first name. In my case the surname is Jack, but when I put a first name, then Jack, the search engine gives me names that BEGIN with Jack which is literally millions. Who do I email about this problem with the search engine?? Thanks.

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