Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2/24 CVGS Program Summary - Margaret Lewis

The 35 attendees at the Chula Vista Genealogical Society program on 24 February were treated to Margaret Lewis' presentation titled "Wrong Name, Right Man, Right Man, Wrong Name." Margaret's curriculum vitae and program outline were posted here.

Margaret's main theme was that names throughout a person's life were rarely constant - they changed spelling, content or scope over a person's lifetime. For instance, she has used six names in legal documents over her lifetime. She has several ancestors that were known by six or seven different name combinations during their lifetimes.

One of her ancestors was named Ethel Lee Clorice Horne on her birth certificate, but the name used in many legal documents was Ethelene Horne, and the surname was spelled Hurne, Harne, Hone and Hoen in some records. Another ancestor was born John Paxson Forest Hamilton, but she has found records naming him as Colonel John P.F. Hamilton, John Paxson Hamilton, John Hamilton, Jno. Hamilton and J.P. Hamilton. And Mr. Hamilton had a son with the same name.

The talk noted that surnames were spelled in documents as the recorder (town clerk, census enumerator, etc.) heard them, and transcribers or indexers might have been unable to read them accurately, and therefore researchers need to be open to spelling differences while searching for ancestral records. Likewise, given names might be initials or nicknames, or middle names used in place of the first name.

Margaret covered African-American naming patterns (slave-holders, an admired person, or a chosen name); Native-American names (tribal and/or Anglicized); Hispanic names (two surnames, father's surname and mother's surname); translated names (shortened or Anglicized after immigration); senior and junior names (not necessarily father and son).

The traditional naming pattern was discussed briefly - how families named their sons and daughters according to a formula. For instance - first son for father's father, second son for mother's father, third son for father, fourth son for father's oldest brother, fifth son for mother's oldest brother, etc.

From this presentation, it is evident that researchers should try looking at family names by considering not only the "traditional" spelling, but also alternate spellings, how the name sounds, and the prevailing dialects and accents.

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