Whats in a Persons Name

If someone is known by more than one name, put the alternate name or names in parenthesis after the surname, preceded by "a.k.a." (also known as). As an example, John Smith (a.k.a. John Taylor). This situation might occur, for instance, when John Smith had been adopted by a Taylor and was known by both names.

Write down all the names by which a person was known. If he was known by his middle name, or known by initials only, note that too. Laurence William Holmes has been known as Bill, Will, and Willie. It will be important one day for his descendants to know that, for he may be listed under any of those.

Always note the spelling variations you find. They can be insignificant, a reflection of times when names were spelled phonetically, or they can be important, suggesting that you have information on two different individuals rather than one. (See Chapter 6, "A Rose by Any Other Name...," for more on spelling variations.)

For names that can be either male or female (such as Gale-Gail, Gene-Jean, Marion-Marian, Frances-Francis, Leslie-Lesley) indicate whether the individual was a man or woman if you can determine that from the document. It eliminates confusion.

If you find an individual with a name usually given to someone of the opposite sex (remember the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue"?), be sure to indicate that in your notes. In early times there were a number that have now fallen into disuse: Eleanor, Mildred, Beverly, and Valentine (to name a few) were often male names as well as female.

^ Genie Jargon

1 ^ A given name is the first name; the name given to a child at birth. It is sometimes referred to as the Christian name.

Tree Tips

A good rule to adopt is that if you find anything in the record that seems amiss or unusual, note it. It may be the evidence that proves or disproves a link you are trying to establish.

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