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The Problem of Names - By Any Other Name


What name should you look for - what did people call your ancestors?

This seems like a silly question but it is a profound one. Our ancestors often used various names.

Did they use different given names (first names) during their lifetime?

  • Language variations: English, Gaelic, Latin
    • Latin: Gulielmus = William; Jacobus = Jacob or James
    • Gaelic: Diarmaid, Darby or Dermot = Jeremiah or Jerome
  • Nicknames (Kate = Catherine, Con=Cornelius, Delia = Bridget, Sarah = Cecilia)
  • Internet resource: Christian Names in Ireland by Jane Lyons
  • Commonly used naming patterns in families may be a clue

Did their surname change – name or spelling of it?

  • Common variations
    • keeping or dropping the O’, Mc, Mac, Fitz
    • letter substitutions, like
      • A & E: McAvoy, McEvoy
      • C, K & G: Milligcan, Millikan, Milligan
      • P & W: Phelan, Whelan
    • Watch for all variations, like Hoy, Haughey, Hawkins, Haughin
    • Realize variations affect Soundex code
  • Surname distribution can be helpful (look up in Griffith’s Householders Index)
  • Origin of Irish surnames can help

Finding Maiden Names – Places to Look

  • Marriage records
  • Social Security application
  • Death record
  • Children's death records
  • Obits: person, children, spouse, siblings
  • Church records
  • Divorce records
  • Widow’s war pension
  • Local histories
  • “Missing Friends”
  • Insurance records
  • Genealogy of husband’s line

Finding where they came from in Ireland - key to successfully tracing your ancestor

  • Look where they settled
  • Best bets
    • Obituaries, death records, tombstones
    • Local histories, church records, marriage records, census
  • Thoroughly search
    • All records from your ancestors life outside of Ireland
    • Look at all family members and neighbors