Inferential Genealogy Study Group in 2nd Life–Naming Conventions

One thing that has always interested me, is “Where did THAT name come from?

As one of those who has always been known by my middle name, I try to find out the answer to that question.

It took me a while to find my grandfather in the 1900 Census, as I knew where he was, but couldn’t find him. I knew he was living with his grandparents, and I knew where. Not there.

BUT, then I remembered that his grandmother remarried. As soon as I did a search for her 2nd marriage surname, I found her and my grandfather AND where my middle name came from, as it hadn’t been used up until this point.

The same thing happened when I started to look for Ridgely Howard, as that is the only name I knew. But, both Ridgely and Howard were “my” surnames.

The piece that I learned in the past several days was a little about Southern Traditions of the use of First and Middle Names. Apparently, those in the ‘south’ interchanged First and Middle Names at will. Sometimes call by their middle name and sometimes called by their first name.

In this study, I have also found this to be true, or at least I thought so. In my my review of some of the mid 1800 census records, I saw a James McHenry Howard and a McHenry Howard. Both with the same birth year, which for census records, that may be a 3 year time span, and in the same town (Baltimore, Maryland).

The good news, in my genealogy database, I recorded them separately, but kept in the back of my mind, and made note about this that they may be the same person.

For a while, I thought that James McHenry just reported McHenry, as he might have been going by his middle name, like I do.

Early on, Dr. Jones reminded us (in my words) “don’t jump to conclusions”.

Understanding, or being aware of Naming “conventions” for a specific area or tradition, is something to keep in mind when trying to break down a brick wall.

When I come to a new “name”, one that is appearing for the first time, I ask myself that question: “Where did THAT name come from?”


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