08 June 2015

What is the name you were given at birth? 52 Questions W1

This week I will focus on the following question -

What is the name you were given at birth?

Good follow-up questions that easily go with this question are:
Were you named after a relative or family friend?
Why was your name chosen?
Have you ever had a nickname?
Who gave it to you and why?
What do you know about your family surname?


All family history and genealogy begins with you. When we find the links in our family chain we must begin with ourselves. The same goes for a Family History Questionnaire. The person answering should begin with themselves. Naturally the first question should then be, "What is your name?"

A more accurate question may be, "What is the name you were given at birth?" This question can elicit more than a simple response. Peoples names can change over time, especially women's names. People also have nicknames that can be given in many different ways.

My given name is Mathew A Trotter. The 'A' is just an initial. My father also has just a letter for his middle name. His letter is the first letter of his father's name. My letter is the first letter of my mother's father's name. My initials are M.A.T., this is why my first name only has one 'T'. I have signed my name as Mat, Mathew, and Mathew A. I have also been called Matt and Matthew. In college I rushed a fraternity and they called me Mathias. I had a job during college and the checks were made out to Matthias Trotler. To this day I have many friends that still call me Mathias.

My wife goes by her middle name, Rachel. Her fist name begins with an 'M'. I have received mail addressed to M. R. Trotter that was intended for me instead of my wife. We have a son we call bear. When he was a baby he would curl up in our arms to fall asleep. He would snore and it sounded like a little growl, like a cub. So we called him our bear.

My grandpa used to call my dad Homer. It had something to do with a T.V. show or something. Once the Simpsons came on he stopped using the term. My youngest brother does not remember our dad being called Homer. Until my mother's father died I did not know he was know by his middle name instead of his first name.

My grandpa's name is Richard. My uncle is also names Richard but has gone by Dick for most of his like. According to this Mental Floss article,

"The name Richard is very old and was popular during the Middle Ages. In the 12th and 13th centuries everything was written by hand and Richard nicknames like Rich and Rick were common just to save time. Rhyming nicknames were also common and eventually Rick gave way to Dick and Hick, while Rich became Hitch. Dick, of course, is the only rhyming nickname that stuck over time. And boy did it stick. At one point in England, the name Dick was so popular that the phrase "every Tom, Dick, or Harry" was used to describe Everyman."


These are all personal examples of nicknames and other name changes. My third great-grandmother was named Eliza Metcalf. When she was a baby she met Eliza Snow who was a very well know Latter-day Saint. She was a plural wife of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Her brother was also the fifth president of the LDS church. Eliza Snow's middle name is Rocxy. When she held my great-grandmother she said, "Oh you are named after me." Ever since then her parents called her Eliza Roxey Metcalf.

All names are important when tracking down sources. I have found that a lot of census records contain nicknames of family members. It is important that we keep track of them and know what the possibilities are.

As I have stated in previous posts, I am a Legacy user. In Legacy you can track and source all of the different variations of the names you find.


My relative in the screenshot above had the nickname of Jody. As you can see I have also found information about him under the name John. The 'S' in the column on the right shows I have a source for this name. When I click the books icon in the lower left corner I can see what source is attached to this name.


The 1920 Census list the head of household as John Bartholomew. However his wife's name is Annie, and his children's names are Lila, Dale, Fawn, Arvilla, and Norma. I know my grandfather's family well enough to know that this is his father, mother and siblings.


For some reason the census enumerator entered his name as John. There are many reason's why this may have happened. I do not thin that John has ever been used as a nickname for Joseph. This is clearly a communication or other error. None the less this is a great example of how nicknames can be used to find sources for your family records. Annie is a nickname for Anna, my great-grandmother's first name. Both Dale and Faun are middle names that both my grandfather and his sister go by their middle names.

I hope this weeks questions lead to great sources for you. Let me know if you have any successes.