One of the most important aspects of your family tree is your ancestors’ names (first, middle, surname and female maiden names). Everyone sees various name spellings and even totally different names for certain individuals while doing research. So what you need to do to help ensure you have names correct are the following ideas.
Be as complete in giving a person’s name; include the full given names (not just a shorter version or nickname such as “Dick” for Richard). If a person was pretty much known by the shorter version, place in quote marks along with the full name. Female given name have other versions also, such a “Beth” for Elizabeth. If the person always had a suffix such as Jr., Sr., III., include that at the end of their name. An acceptable method is also to make the surname all uppercase letters.
Names for females, especially surnames can have problems. Some documents might a female’s maiden name, a previously married name or their present married name. It can be confusing. As you find possible names for females, do record each one with the date of the record. It could come in handling in finding previous marriages and children. Having the maiden name is very important to find the parents of the female. If a maiden name is found do list it with the female’s full name and place a bracket on the right and left side of the maiden name.
Another problem can be alternate names. This could be a birth family name and an adoptive parent surname. Or someone may for any reason wanted to change the birth surname to something else different. Another common reason for alternate names is spelling variations. It is common as you go back in generations of families. Even the same person could have used different spellings for their name over their lifetime. When you do find alternate names, note all of them. Place “a.k.a” (also known as) in brackets with the full name including the alternative spellings. If there is just minor spelling (one letter or so) difference you can place one of the names then a slant line and the alternate name such as Henry William JOHNSON/JOHNSEN.
Never hesitate to include a full name, maiden name and variations for your ancestors. It can prove to be very helpful later to back up your research.
Photos: ‘Behind the Name’, Recording Names and List of Common American Given Names and Surnames.
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