More on Monikers
I enjoyed Sharon DeBartolo Carmack’s article “Name That Ancestor” (December 2003). It has many useful tips and insights for tracing the right people.
Something Ms. Carmack stated “Rarely will you find a legal name change” doesn’t ring true in my experience. For instance, while trying to find a definitive match for a Russian man who settled in Chicago, I reviewed naturalisation indexes for the northern district of Illinois (National Archives microfilm series M1285, roll 153), which gave both the emigrants’ original and new legal names. Out of 20 possible matches for Abe/Abraham Stein, these original surnames also were recorded: Bezbosky, Goldstein, Bomeistein, Burstein, Sterensdris, Pievenstein and Kalom.
One boo-boo cited in the article (and elsewhere) is that Jno is a truncated name for Jonathan. It’s actually an odd way to spell or abbreviate John. Similarly, Latin records that use Jos for a man’s name refer to Johannes (john/jahann), not Josephus.
A naming pattern not mentioned in the article, but which I find repeatedly in German Catholic church baptism records, is that children were given the same first and middle names as their godparents of the same sex. For example, Joannes Adamus Blick, son of Joannis Josephi Blick and Mariae Catharinae Schroeder of Steineberg, Kreis Daun, Rheinland, born Aug. 25, 1811, and baptized the same day in the parish of Demerath, had the godparents Joanne Adamo Schildgen and Anna Elisabetha Marx.
Finally, censuses, passenger lists and other records sometimes contain another goof-up: the first name-last name swap. To wit: The enumerator for the 1850 census of two townships in Fond du Lac County, Wis., sometimes wrote the first name, then the last name of the heads of household, but then switched to last name followed by first name and sometimes a middle name. Consequently, a bunch of people were indexed with surnames of John, Nicholas, Peter and so on.
Keep up your excellent work!
Evelyn M. Roehl
I was appalled that you casually referred to ancestors who’d been accused of witchcraft as “bad apples” who “spice up our pedigrees” (“Almost Famous,” October 2003). Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the witch hunts of continental Europe, Britain and Colonial America is aware that literally thousands of men, women and even children faced conviction and execution on the flimsiest of evidence, and torture was used to obtain confessions.
Anyone who learns that an ancestor was accused of witch-craft should remember that even conviction and execution are not proof that such a relative committed any illegal act, or even that he or she was of dubious character.
Silver Spring, Md.
From the April 2004 Family Tree Magazine