Naming patterns in Virginia families may be overlooked or considered unimportant–to your pedigree’s peril. Let’s discuss a few that can help you quickly:
- Surnames as given names–first or middle position. These surnames usually identify the kinship network within which your ancestor lived. These surnames also earmark the migration patterns followed by your ancestors. And they supply an in-house recommendation for source materials to check first. Read family histories for these surnames and look for family trees online that identify which generations of the specific surname intermarried with your family surnames. Review family traditions for related families and name changes. When you search census records, probates, and tax lists–watch for these surnames in the lists as well as your own. Then carefully evaluate what you find.
- Alternate spellings of surnames. Many surnames have been Americanized. When you watch for alternate spellings of these surnames, you can gain evidence of countries of origin and “lost” places of residence where the surviving records are more complete or easier to access. Other places to research if the courthouse burned or records are lost by war.
- Namesakes. People travel together, settle in clusters. Search lists of early settlers and note leaders of events, of militia and army forces, of churches, of political movements. Check biographical sources in print and online for these leaders. Who are they? What families are related to them? Where do they come from? What level of society do they represent? Where do they lie buried?
Allow enough time in your work to evaluate the evidence you already have in your possession–when you zip into and out of sources now indexed online, you can easily overlook the very evidence you seek. You may have had it all the time. Just never spent time reviewing what you had. We all fall into this research pit at least once or twice. Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS Your names are an essential key to your lineage. Use them to actively search for your origins.