Genealogy census tip: First and middle names

Name 3By Barry J. Ewell
You never know what first name your ancestor will be known by. Think of yourself, friends, and relatives.  Some go by birth name, nickname, middle name and/or their initial.  Be on the lookout for these variations with each census. Check out the article, “Search strategies for finding names in the census and other resources.”

  • Middle names. It was common our ancestors to name their children after parents, grandparents and give them a middle name by which they would be known. For example, James Albert Johnson would be known by Albert or Bert Johnson.
  • Initials. I have found names changing from census to census with the use of the initial.  For example, James Isaac Steward in the 1800 census became, J. Steward in 1810, James. I. Steward in 1840 and James Stewart in 1850.
  • Nicknames. I have found many occasions where nicknames are used instead of the birth name. I have made it practice to always include possible nicknames in my family profile just in case I need search variations of the name. If you would like to learn more about nicknames, check out this article, “Finding nicknames in genealogy research.”  The following are examples of nicknames I have found.
    • Margret becomes Meg, Megan
    • Mary becomes Moll, Polly, Molly
    • Eleanor becomes Nell, Nellie, Nelly
    • Richard becomes Dick
    • Robert becomes Bob, dobbin
    • James becomes Jim, Jimmy

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