Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Given names, middle names, and surnames, oh my!

In my quest to find out as much information as I can about my family history, I usually search by surnames. It is just an easier and much faster method to identify my ancestors. However, there are quite a number of times after hitting a few brickwalls, that I've just used the given name and a birth date and bingo! there they are! Of course it doesn't happen all that often, but enough for me to almost automatically search that way when I hit a brickwall. Middle names are often unknown, or your ancestor just used an initial. I have ancestors who named their children; Marie Isabelle Boudreau, Marie Mary Boudreau, Marie Elizabeth Boudreau-all in the same family, the same parents. It can create a few struggles (and headaches) searching and connecting ancestors.
After receiving all of the Sommer information from Oakwoods Cemetery, I started a little research into this new "branch" of my family tree. What I found out pretty quickly was that several of my ancestors used their middle names instead of their given names. Upon receiving the marriage certificates and death certificates of several of my Sommer ancestors and reviewing federal census records, I quickly discovered that Jacob Sommer was Frederick Jacob Sommer and that James Sommer was Philip James Sommer.
Some people just prefer to be called by their middle name or a nick name instead of their given name. Such is the case with a couple of my first cousins who are known by their middle names. If I was to mention my cousin "Arlene," very few people, if any, would know who I was referring to. She uses the name Terry, short for Therese. My cousin was named after my beloved mother Arlene, but prefers to use a nick name for her middle name. Are you following me here? Imagine trying to find her on a census record one hundred years from now!
My GG Grandfather Marion Albert Hanaway was known by "Bert," short for Albert. He is listed as Marion Hanaway on some census records, and as Bert Hanaway on other census records. You just have to keep plugging away in your research.
Lesson learned: when you can't connect a family member with their surname try their given name and when you can't find them by their given name, well then try their middle name or even a nick name. It can certainly get a little complicated trying to find our ancestors!

1 comment:

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

I've had the same experience as you and it took years to absorb the different naming patterns as well as anglicizations when my ancestors settled in English-speaking areas.
I'm actually going to be posting tomorrow about my Quebec Lagace ancestors. Andre Mignier dit Lagace gave birth to two branches - Mignier/Meunier/Miller and Lagace with varying spellings.
Evelyn in Montreal

The Family

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck

Genealogy Pox, author unknown


SYMPTOMS: Continual complaint as to need for names, dates and places. Patient has a blank expressions, sometimes deaf to spouse and children. Has no taste for work of any kind, except feverishly looking through records at libraries and courthouses.
Has a compulsion to write letters. Swears at mailman when he doesn't leave mail. Frequents strange places such as cemeteries, ruins, and remote desolate country areas. Makes secret night calls and hides phone bills from spouse. Mumbles to self. Has strange, faraway look in eyes.


TREATMENT: Medication is useless. This disease is not fatal, but gets progressively worse. Patient should attend genealogy workshops, subscribe to genealogical magazines and be given a quiet corner in the house where he/she can be alone.

REMARKS: The unusual nature of this disease is that the sicker the patient gets, the more he or she enjoys it!