Although you rarely hear the word onomatology used in polite conversation, it has a profound impact on anyone who’s researching their family history.
Understanding the word – which means the study of names – is especially useful during the current Celebrate Your Name Week. The celebration began in 1997 when amateur onomatologist Jerry Hill declared the first full week in March a week for everyone in the world to embrace and celebrate his or her name. The word itself was created just over a century ago.
Although names form the foundation for any family history or genealogy project, they can be frustratingly problematic. Surnames often change over time, through immigration, marriage, whimsy or even sloppy penmanship. Screw up a name in your family tree and you may be sent spinning on a lengthy genealogical journey where you are consumed by the black hole of erroneous assumptions, false interpretations and someone else’s relatives.
So what do you know about your own name? Do you know its meaning? Its history? Have you ever been confused for someone else just because of your name? Do you know who you or your ancestors were named for?
Even if you don’t answer all your name-related questions during this celebratory week, it would be worth your time to examine your name-related issues before you take a wrong turn in your research.
Flickr photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor.