How frustrating when checking databases looking for a certain ancestor and you have a surname but can not locate that individual because no known given name matches. You look over vital records and might see a couple different given names for the same person, some of which are each totally different. You wonder if you have the right person or even family.
Just like is done now it was the same case decades ago, our ancestors went by a couple different given names at various times in their life. If a person had two given names, they might only use the middle name and totally dropped the first name even in official records.
With the use of nicknames, it makes the search even more complicated. Having an appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name is what a nickname means. It can be shorter form of a longer given name or even be a total different name. Some of these nicknames have even become so accepted they are bestowed on babies at birth as their official given birth name.
Become familiar with thelist of nicknames, especially those that are quite different. For example ’Polly’ is a nickname for Mary -- both totally different names. Then you can have a nickname which can refer to two different given names; like ‘Billy’ can be for William or for Robert. Also ‘Lee’ can be a nickname for Elias or ’Tony’ for Shelton or Anthony. This can make your investigate more different unless you are aware of the differences.
There are some very unusual nicknames that were popular during the 19th century that also hinder your research. Here is a list of male and female nicknames from the 1800s, plus the matching proper names.
Then there are the nicknames given to a person because of some familiar, humorous, occupational, title or other personal characteristic. Someone who is a medical doctor could be nicknamed ’Doc’ or ’Sawbones’. A person who is a fire or police chief might be nicknamed ‘Chief’. A very tall person could be named ‘Stretch’.
So recognize the possibly of an ancestor’s other names, especially nicknames. It can help in expanding your research.