How many times have you encountered records from the right area, in the right time frame with names in the family that match names you know are ‘yours’ yet the record isn’t about your ancestor but are of their cousin who had the same name.
Didn’t our great, great, great aunts and uncles have any imagination when it came to naming their children? Did they wait for chances to name two male or two female children with the same name when the two were born within a month or so of each other, knowing it would drive us nuts? Surely, they wouldn’t have thought to laughingly do such things knowing it would drive us nuts.
It is obvious that most of our ancestral families only had a 10 -15 first name repertoire. They had families of 8 – 12 kids, so why have more names? More names just took more storage space in their minds that were already stressed with trying to remember the names of their misbehaving noisy kids. Why add to the list of names that had to be called to get to the name of the kid who was causing all the trouble?
Grumbling about their naming punsterisms again last night, I finally untangled yet another mess that included two cousins with the same name, born within a month of each other in adjoining towns. The fun went a little too far this time. Many, many researchers before me have made the obvious choice when not looking through all of the source records in depth and declared the two men to be the same person.
They weren’t. Their wives could tell us that, especially now we know that the second cousin married a lady from South Carolina when he was seaman who sailed the waters from Plymouth, Massachusetts to Charleston. The spouses were different ladies in more than just accent. One was raised as a southern belle. The other was the daughter of a poor Protestant preacher. I don’t know if they ever met or if the cousins with the same names had any similarities’ in their personalities. Perhaps the two guys were as different as the inferred differences between their wives.
Live many of you fellow researchers, there are times when I want to meet and shake the hands of ancestors who named their children with unique names. I don’t know how those children were treated in school and by their peers due to their unique names, but Americus Vespucius, I love your name, the same is true for you Lucindus Amellius and even yours, Secundus Daedillus.
Yes, the folks who tried to record your names in census and other records struggled to spell or even pronounce your names, but their humorous attempts left easy to decipher trails that led me to you.
William Bennett, John Jones, Mary smith and Lucy Smith, I’m sure you were wonderful people but you have been really hard to find! Couldn’t you have married someone with a little more unique name to help your family shine or even glimmer a bit in the sea of names listed on old records?
Well, to a degree, we’ve learned lessons from the naming paucity of days gone by with the multitude of wacky names we seeing parents naming their children at times today. Of course, Hannah, Emily, William and John are still list leading names today but we often see middle names like Tweezel or Chundra that differentiate them enough to make them unique.
To my cousins from the naming issue resolution last night. Sleep well John and John. I know who you are and who you married. Soon, everyone else will too.