This is part of a series of related posts discussing how names can be both challenging and illuminating in genealogical research. Names are everything in Genealogy: they identify us as individuals, they help us build our family groups–they are the foundation stone for our research. It is the first search item we employ when we are looking for more information on any individual or family. But is a name just a label? Is it just a one-dimensional handle for a person or family? Absolutely not.
Through the course of my work in researching my Irish ancestors, I have had to learn how to get the most out of a name during the research process. With Irish names here are a few of the things I have learned:
Changes in spelling or form are common and can happen for several reasons.
Repetition patterns can help to identify or confirm potential family links.
Every family is different, and does things their own way. Never take a convention as a rule. Ever.
Baby steps are ok. In fact, I encourage them. Any type of research can be daunting, but I find that family history research, where we have a very personal investment in the results, can be terrifying.
With so much time on our hands as the world has effectively shut down, more and more of us are turning to those projects we just never felt we had the time for, or that we started and never found a way to get back to.
It all starts out relatively simple, doesn't it? We want to know who we are, and so many of us set ourselves on learning as much as we can about where we came from. How we got here.
If you are anything like me, the elation of discovering this unexpected downtime and dreaming up all of the things you will accomplish during this lockdown time is like a drug. It’s super exciting in the beginning–you make lots of lists and pull out those dusty photographs and hoarded bits of newspaper and letters. But then, you get up to make a cup of tea, come back to get truly settled in and you find yourself faced with research goals spanning hundreds of years, so many options of where to start that you are frozen with uncertainty, and a rapidly escalating feeling of deep despair that you’ll never figure it all out. Even with all the time in the world you become convinced that you will just never get there.
Every single one of us has a family history dotted with major events–wars, disease, famine, natural disasters–you name it and they’ve been through it. Fast forward a few hundred years and trying to piece together what they actually experienced at the time is difficult, if not down right impossible.