HOW CHAMORRO PARENTS GAVE NAMES TO THEIR CHILDREN
First of all, without question and exception, all babies were given, from Spanish times, religious or Christian names. Most of the time it was the name of a person (Jesus, Maria, Jose) but sometimes it was a title of Mary (Dolores, Pilar) or a mystery of the faith (Encarnacion, Concepcion).
But, among the many religious names possible, which ones to give this or that particular baby?
Names were often given on the basis of :
1. THE SAINT OR FEAST OF THE DAY
In those days, every day of the year had a saint or saints of the day. In some families, on the day a baby boy was born, they just looked at the day on their Catholic calendar, and if the male saint of the day was San Fructuoso, then that was the baby's name. If a girl was born on the feast day of Santa Mafalda, in many families, that's the name she got. This accounts for some of our elders having (for us) strange and exotic names : Recaredo, Prepedigna, Telesforo, Reducinda.
On some days, there was an important religious feast and sometimes the child was named in honor of the feast. If a girl was born on December 8, she might be named Concepcion (Immaculate Conception); if on August 15 she might be named Asuncion (Assumption). If a boy was born on Christmas Day, he might be called Jesus or Manuel (Emmanuel).
The day of birth, many times, had nothing to do with it. Individual devotion guided the choice of name. A family, or a parent, might have great devotion to San Jose or San Roque, so there would be kids named after them. There are a few Judes from Sinajaña, and Anthonys from Tamuning. Our school bus used to pick up a girl in Chalan Pago, whose name was Paz. Go figure.
2. TO HONOR SOMEONE IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE...OR OTHERWISE
There were a lot of Pedros in my family. That's because the patriarch was Pedro Rodriguez Torres. He had no boys, but the one and only grandson was named Pedro. Then a great-grandson was named Pedro. The matriarch was Josefa, so a granddaughter and great-granddaughter were also named Josefa or Josephine by the time the U.S. flag was waving over us.
Since, in one family, grandfather, father and son might all be named Jose, one had to clarify which Jose one was talking about. Josen Dångkulo (Big Jose) and Josen Dikkiki' (Little Jose) would be one way, or Josen Tata (Jose the Father or Grandfather) and Josen Påtgon (Jose the Child). Another way would be to call the child Joselito, Juanito, Pascualito and so on.
But there were more than blood relatives to honor. Taking the godparent's first name was also a common Chamorro custom.
There were/are also a few Romans, Leons, Bernabes, Canices, Arnolds...and even one or two Erics running around because parents named their boys in honor of a priest. There have also been a few John Pauls. Their parents shot higher. Back in the 30s and 40s, when we had one Pope Pius after another, there were a few Chamorro babies baptized Pio.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president for so long in the 30s and 40s that there are a handful of middle-aged Franklins born on Guam. And a few Eleanors (if you catch the connection).
3. TO HONOR A PRIOR CHILD WHO DIED
Not a few times have I come across, in baptismal records or in speaking with families, two children named Jose or Maria, and to find out that the older Jose or Maria died in infancy. Some parents named a subsequent child after the deceased child. In Chamorro, this was called "ma na' lå'la' ta'lo i matai na påtgon," giving back life to the deceased child. The loss was redeemed by doing this.