Earlier this week I had the good fortune to dine with some former high school classmates at our school’s hall of fame induction of another classmate, Barbara Morris Koenig. There was lots of reminiscing among us – Suzie, Lynette, Sheri, Linda and Bill (whose nametag inexplicably read “John”).
Also at our table was J.J., a school board member, who chipped in with stories of her own high school days in far off Valentine, Neb. As we left the dining area, I asked her what J.J. stood for. “That’s between my mother and me,” she teased before divulging her actual name.
Truth is, few people outside J.J.’s family probably do know her actual name. She ran for school board as J.J., teaches elementary school kids as J.J. and has probably used those initials most of her life. Many of us are known primarily by a name other than that given by us by our parents and that can create problems when doing family history research.
For instance, if you try to track down information on my father, Jack Lehmer, you’re likely to come up empty unless you use his given name of Walter B. The same could be true if I tried to track down classmates I knew as Sparks and Skeet, not their actual names.
Famous people often are more widely known by stage names than their actual names. I wonder if guests at an Evans family reunion call their most famous hip-gyrating, singing family member by his stage name of Chubby (Checker), or if they go with his given name of Ernest?
Chances are good you grew up with an Andy Anderson or Smitty Smith. Chances are also good that those are not their real names. You probably knew people who went by their middle names although you had no way of knowing that.
Keep that in mind as you continue your family research.
Writing prompt of the day: List the nicknames used by your family members. Then write about their origins.
Photo: Barbara Morris Koenig