Sunday, October 14, 2012

NICKNAMES AND GENEALOGY



My 2nd great grandfather’s name was THOMAS BRASHEAR. However, if you do a search for “Thomas Brashear” in Perry County, Tennessee on Ancestry.com, you will not always find him. In the 1860, 1870 and 1880 U.S. Censuses he is listed as T.M. Brashear. There are a number of other people named Thomas Brashear in that time period, but they are not the right one for my tree.  It appears that Southern men liked to go by their initials. J.R. Ewing, the character in the television show “Dallas,” comes to mind. This is an example of why nicknames are so important.  

I knew my aunt ELIZABETH TAYLOR WRATTEN as “Aunt Betty.”   She did not like the name Elizabeth. If you search for “Elizabeth Taylor” in Oneida County, New York, on Ancestry.com, you will find others by that name who are not my aunt. If you search for “Betty Taylor" you will find her in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses.  Even her gravestone is inscribed “Betty Taylor Wratten.”

Nicknames can be tricky. For example, did you know that Nancy is a nickname for Ann, that Mattie is a nickname for Martha and that Lig is a nickname for Elijah? (1) If you have an ancestor named Helen, she could have been called Nell, Nellie, Elly, Elsie or Lena. (2)

So when you have an ancestor who is hard to find, try searching for variants of the name.  Here are some links that will give you some ideas:

  • “A Listing of Some 18th and 19th Century American Nicknames,” History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, 2012 (http://www.cslib.org/nickname.htm: accessed October 14, 2012).


If you want to purchase a book on this topic, I recommend:


Being aware of nicknames can mean the difference between a brick wall and a leafy family tree.



ILLUSTRATIONS BY:

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineloa, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Old-Fashioned Silhouettes, 2001.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Trees & Leaves, 2004.

SOURCE CITATIONS:

(1) “A Listing of Some 18th and 19th Century American Nicknames,” History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, 2012 (http://www.cslib.org/nickname.htm: accessed October 14, 2012).

(2) Ibid.


2 comments:

  1. I hear you! Nicknames can be a challenge! Here's a couple examples I've noticed. I've gone by "Beth" every day of my life, but legally I'm "Elizabeth." Heaven help the future researcher trying to find me. Further, I'm working on a research subject who goes by both "Hatie" and "Hester Ann" interchangeably. Finally, I was watching "American Masters" about Margaret Mitchell of "Gone with the Wind" fame on PBS. Seems she went by "Peggy" until she started writing professionally.
    Thanks for the list of resources!
    Beth Foulk
    www.genealogydecoded.com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Beth, for your comment. We really need to think outside the box when hunting for ancestors. My name is spelled with an "i" so I am sure that will challenge people long after I am gone.
      --Karin

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