Genealogy is based on a person's name.. but names can contain pitfalls as well as clues for further research. One of the biggest pitfalls is assuming that all records for the same name are specific to one person. Another is assuming variant spellings of a name mean the two names are not connected. Or that because two people share a surname, they are probably related. Names can be changed -- by marriage, by legislation or just by the person involved-- and a person can go by more than one name.
Remember: You're not looking for names; you are looking for people. View the names in context and search with an eye towards the vagueries of record keeping of the day. Be alert to possible mis-spelling and transcription errors.
Books, articles, audio tapes
On the Web
Redmonds. Christian Names in Local and Family History (studied in records of England )
In Ancestry, November/December 2006, we find these several articles on names:
Crume. " What's In A Name?" in Family Chronicle Feb. 2007 pp. 17-22 This article gives a brief overview of surname origins covering 28 ethnic groups, with links to databases of names based on ethnic origin.
Mills. Unravelling Balls of Yarn: Lessons in the Use of a Skeptical Eye. Genealogical Journal (Utah Genealogical Society )vol. 19 no. 1/2 1991.
Rising. Proving Identity: Sorting Individuals of the Same Name. and Rising. Sorting Out Ancestors with the Same Name. (these talks may be substanatially the same).
Good Connexions: Naming Patterns
Naming Patterns in the 18th and 19th century... but remember, people didn't necessarily follow these patterns.
The Family Names entry in Wikipedia offers a concise overview of the common use of surnames in a variety of language groups.
Customs surrounding married and maiden are described in this Wikipedia entry.
Linda Davenport provides us with a great list of links on the topic of "Names, Names and More Names."
Return to Bobbie's Genealogy Classroom
This page last updated February 19, 2007