Names, names, names.
Names are the name of the game in genealogical research. They are the connectors and identifiers of our family trees. A misspelling, misjudgment or incorrect reference can send a family historian leaf-hopping to another, totally unrelated tree. Accuracy is critical in genealogical research.
As a family historian and biographer, I’m more interested in the stories behind the names. That includes their origins.
The influence of famous people extends well beyond their own family tree. They may have towns, buildings, streets or sandwiches named after them. They may even spark a surge of namesakes beyond their own families. My oldest son Aaron Guthrie, for example, is named after a favorite baseball player (Hank Aaron) and folk singer (Woody Guthrie).
But many of the names on our family trees are influenced more by those family members who came before. When my daughter was born, my wife, Linda, vowed that she would have a more unique name. There were many Lindas around during my wife’s childhood so she opted for the nice-sounding name of Meghan that she picked from a TV commercial. Unfortunately, that was about the same time that “The Thornbirds” was a best-selling novel with a Megan as a major character. All of a sudden, Megans were as common as Lindas were a decade earlier.
The name of our youngest boy, Bret Darby, is a nod to Linda’s father’s Irish roots.
What about your family? Do you know the stories behind the names in your own family tree?
Myra Vanderpool Gormley at Ancestry Magazine has written an interesting piece about how names were picked in her family and Chris Dunham, who has a knack for finding the offbeat over at The Genealogue, writes about a tennis star named Tennys, the real identity of Superman and a tale of using e-mail symbols to name your child.