In the 1800s and earlier, certain given, or first, names were duplicated within in a family of two or more generations.  It was a common practice among some families to name the first born son for his grandfather, thus going back and forth through several generations, alternating between two names, as John, Alexander, John, Alexander, etc.   Since families were commonly rather large, boys were often named for their father and his brothers, and the girls, named for aunts, grandmothers, mothers, even older cousins. 


As a result, it is now sometimes difficult to know which person a document refers when one is doing family research.  Without a birth date, death date, or some other specific identifier, one cannot always be sure to whom a document or bit of information should be credited.  The family of Alexander and Eleanor McCall, immigrants to Huntingdon County, may serve as an example of the possible confusion of names.  To the immigrants were born eight children, six of whom were sons.  To those children were born 58 children, 26 of whom were boys.  Eighteen of those boys were given the name of their uncles or father.  This resulted in five boys (first cousins) being named Alexander and five first cousins being named John.  When the next generation of children is added, the number of McCalls sharing the common given names of the family can further add to the challenge of identifying to which John, Alexander, Ellen, or Catharine a particular piece of information might apply.


With certain names so commonly found in families, when a name appears that is unusual, even rare, it is interesting to pursue the origin of the name or the reason for it having been chosen.  An unusual name was given to one of the children of Matthew M. McCall and his second wife Mary Garner McCall.


Matthew M. McCall was the third son of immigrants Alexander and Eleanor McCall.  In June of 1834 he married one Susan Garner, daughter of John J. and Mary Freed Garner.    Their marriage was noted in The Huntingdon Gazette.  Oral history passed down in the family indicated that Susan had two children with Matthew and, further, that Susan and the two children soon died.  No children’s names or gravesites for mother or children have been identified.


Shortly after Susan’s death, Matthew married her younger sister, Mary.  The marriage probably took place in mid or late 1836.  Over a period of eighteen years, ten children were born to this second marriage.  The first three children were males and were named for Matthew’s brothers.   The fourth child was a female and was named Eleanor after her grandmother McCall; the fifth child was also a female and was named Catharine, a popular name of the time.


Another child was expected in 1846, and the couple picked a boy’s name and a girl’s name ahead of time.  When it was evident that a delivery was soon to happen, someone was sent for the local doctor.  The McCalls lived in Penn Township in which the village of Grafton (now Hesston) was located.  Doctor Orlady lived in the village and came shortly after being notified.


In due time the child, a boy, was born and was given the name of his father, Matthew Mark.  Following the birth, the doctor, the father and perhaps some of the older children were sitting in the kitchen discussing the events of the day while the adults enjoyed a cup of coffee.


Much to the surprise of everyone, conversation and coffee were soon interrupted because mother went into labor again, and in fairly short order a second son was born.  In addition to the surprise, the parents were not prepared with a second name, and were asking the question: What shall we name him?”   The doctor, perhaps partly in jest, suggested, “Why don’t you name him after me?”  Apparently the parents liked the idea or had no better one, so the child was named for the doctor, then given the middle name of the doctor’s village.


Hence, on July 30, 1846, the younger of twins, Orlady Grafton McCall, had a name.  The only McCall since that time to have the name Orlady was a grandson of the first Orlady.  He, Joseph Orlady McCall, was born to John Hall McCall and Lela Jane Margaret Snyder McCall on April 13, 1908, at Larke, near Williamsburg, Blair County.  


Nearly every story has connections to other stories.   The connecting one for Orlady Grafton McCall has to do with the young woman he married in 1874.  His name may be found in the tale of Why One Garner Family Moved Westward in the Family Histories section of the Genealogy of the Woodcock Valley website.





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