ANCES-TREE (Naming patterns relating to Australia’s Federation in 1901)


Clare Gervasoni


Q. My great grandmother’s name was Nora Federal Gina Paterson. Nora and Gina are family names, but I can’t understand the use of Federal. Am I missing something?

A. Exploring family names can be amusing while showing a glimpse of bygone times. Nora Paterson was born in 1901 at Ballarat. This was the year of the Federation of Australian States. Ballarat was an important centre in the Federation movement, with the majority of Ballarat residents voting “yes” in both Federal Referenda.

By including Federal in their daughter’s name Nora’s parents appeared to show support for the Federation movement, and expressed their delight and optimism at the dawn of the new century through the name of their new daughter.

They were not the only ones to make reference to Australia’s Federation when naming their child. In 1901 names like Federation, Federal, Fedora, Federica, Fedelia, Federetta and Federina were chosen. For example, Ruby Annie Victoria Federal Arnel was born at Ballarat East, and Eric Royal Federal Dowlan and Fedora Hope Fitzsimmons were both born in 1901.

The variety of names relating to Federation was found by simply typing “Fed” into the “Given Name” field of the Federation Index CD-ROM of Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages. This results in every name starting with “Fed”. Our search showed that most boys were given the name Federation or Federal, and girls were given feminine derivations like Fedelia or Federina.

Nora’s sister, born in 1894, was given a very plain name – Alice Maude Paterson. This is another clue that the year 1901 was an important one in the life of the Paterson family.