“The South” and Surname Research

As you trace your family backwards in time, linking pedigree ancestor to pedigree ancestor, you encounter “The South” for the first time in your research.  And “The South” relates differently.

Kinship networks are connected across county and state lines.  Genealogy and kinship are the primary networks your ancestors experienced in Virginia.  This makes compiled genealogies very important:

__compiled at different dates from records often missing or lost today

__written by non-scholars who record at random what they have heard, read, seen, know, believe, and hope!

__include details on persons who cannot be found in any other source

__identify migration patterns in birth and death places as no other record can–especially valuable before all the persons in the household are named in the 1850 census

__reprint family Bible data now unavailable

__provide naming patterns, especially first given names for nicknames used in marriage records  and middle  given names for initials stated in the census

__describe kinship networks in your own family background which essential for bridging the ocean with accuracy

__tell you of the women in your background who lived long and productive lives.  Many women in “The South”–especially Virginia–outlived 4-5 husbands.  Marriages were contracted and performed locally in the presence of family and friends.  And while they may be recorded in the family Bible, or the Church register, or even the business account books, they may not be registered officially in the County.

Monitor and Review Who Carries your Surnames

With these considerations in mind, you want to review every person living in the same neighborhoods, same villages and towns, same county who carries the surname of your own ancestors.  Even if the surname is rather common, or you think it is a common surname in that place, you will want to monitor that evidence with these questions in mind–

  1. Could your surname come from more than one place of origin?  Ireland, and Italy, and the Palatine (Southern Germany)?
  2. Is the handwriting in the Bible legible?  Could the surname be Shaw, Shore, Shearer, Shaver, Shown?
  3. Do the families you are looking at in the records match the surnames included in your family traditions?
  4. Watch for unusual given names and given name combinations that will set apart the families who have very common surnames.

Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS  In further episodes of this blog, we’ll look at other evidence in names and surnames.  Stay tuned.

PPS  I will be speaking on New Resources for Early Virginia Research at the Logan UT Family History Expo, 9 May 2009.  The seminar will be held at the Eccles Center on the Utah State University campus–one of my favorite college campuses.  Once your register, you can access the handouts online with live internet links.   Register at http://www.fhexpos.com

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