What’s in a name?

What's in a name?

I’m not an attorney, but I know a few. I’m not a doctor, a principal, or a dog trainer. I’m a genealogist and a family historian. So, what do these occupations have in common? They are positions held by people of the same name. So, I ask, what’s in a name?

As children, we learn our name. It’s what people call us when they need our attention. One of the first things we learn to write is our name. We identify ourselves by this name. We even call it our name by writing “My name is…” But, what happens in school? How many Matthews can there be in one class? Well, in my experience, there were once three Matthews among ten children. I will admit that I receive no points for originality, but the name means “a gift from God” and that’s exactly what my son means to me :-) The name Matthew has remained one of the top baby names for decades! The demographics on naming patterns in many cultures are interesting studies, at least for me.

So, what’s in a name? When one is tracing their family lineage, identity is the issue. How does one know that this is their person? A name is a starting place but names are not unique to the individual. Just log on to Facebook looking for a friend and at times you will find  a list of people with the same or similar names. A name is not enough. Birth, marriage, and death dates bring more clarity as does a location for each of these events. But still, same names with similar ages in locations of close proximity, or the possibility of migration as it became common, can lead to confusion, mismatched individuals, and incorrect facts attached to family trees. It happens. Our online trees are evidence of these premature conclusions of relationship :-(

Remember, when tracing your family lineage identity is the issue! Consider relationships. Truly, we are known by the company we keep and so are our ancestors!  Also, consider occupations, talents, and any other factors that showcase your ancestor’s individuality. The final question is, how do you know that this is your ancestor? Without his or her name, can you prove it? :-)

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. nice post, and it made me think more about my problem of 2 men born about the same year, same name, living in the same place in 1840. The only way to really separate them is through their associations.

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