Genealogy Part 3 History Column 210 Dave Petersen Your given name may have a significant meaning within your family, names are often recycled and can help when you are researching your family tree. Sometimes town names are incorporated into a child's name. My grandfather went by Earl, but his first name was Milo, the town he was born in 1903. On my Scandanavian side the village name was incorporated in my GG Grandmother's name, she was from Ahola Finland. So maybe John who lived by the lake becomes John Lake. If you have an unusual name try looking up geographic locations. Town names and place names were popular. Towns were named after people and people were named after towns. One of my Great grandfathers; Rasmus Rasmussen thought that his name did not sound American enough and when he immigrated from Denmark changed his name to Robert Peterson. Patronymics is where children take on their fathers first or last name as a surname. Rasmus was the son of Peter so Peterson was an obvious choice, Robert seems to be the Americanized version of Rasmus. Many names were shortened and changed as people came into the new country from the old. My Great Grandmother Minerva Mostoller may have been named after the ship that the family came to America on, "The Minerva". We had Petersens marry Petersons, now the Great grandfather on that side got upset because there were too many Petersens in Victory Township, he had a habit of changing a vowel or cons anent when the mood suited him to distinquish himself from the others. Children are often named after parents, aunts, uncles and other family members, My GG Grandmothers brother was named Smith Bryte, his mother's maiden name was Smith. (Matronymics) According to his military records he was 6' 3" tall, obviously our height comes from that line. He was killed in the battle of Cold Harbor during the Civil War. Physcial characteristics can be adopted as a surname, so maybe there are two men in a village named John, one is tall and one is short, once you go back a couple hundred years in your search you may find that the person you are researching and their father have two completely different names. Then you have the occupational names, Baker, Smith, Carpenter, and their old country variations. Our first ancestor from Phungstadt Germany was a Marsteller, which comes from a variation meaning stable boy or stable keeper. One of the nice things about that surname is that it is rare and all variations from that name share a common ancestor dating back to the late 1400's. In one of our families the first wife died and the second wife had the same first name which caused some confusion as well as one in which female cousins with the same name were accidentally linked to the wrong husbands. Then of course you can have a situation where a child dies and the next child is given the same name. Then depending on where the family originated you will find in some cultures where a family that had only daughters would seek a husband willing to change his surname to his prospective brides and in that way perpetuate the family name. There are more things to consider when it comes to naming conventions and you should take a look at the country or culture of the family that you are researching to see what those unwritten rules were as it can save you a lot of time. It will aid you in tracking down some of those elusive ancestors that we think just didn't take the time to draw us a map, but in reality they did, you just need to take the time to learn how to read it. Try an internet search for naming customs, or genealogy naming conventions and also check out these links as you start working on the family tree. http://www.cyndislist.com/beginner.htm http://www.cyndislist.com/ These are all free links, don't be in a hurry to spend your money to access records online. There are a lot of free access materials online, and you will most likely find other distant cousins researching some of the same lines. Regardless of where the information comes from you will want to verify the sources as much as you can, for while there is a lot of information it is not always good or accurate. When you get ready to try a pay site such as http://Ancestry.com get your material ready and try one of the free trials. They usually run for 2 weeks and you can get access to their data bases. If you have any stories or photographs you would like to share with our reader please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, firstname.lastname@example.org or in Care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Michigan 49431
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