Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Genealogy Aug 19

SAR Compatriot:Eugene Foley
What's in A Name?
I’m a numbers guy.  I still know the phone numbers of my home, my best friend’s home and my dad’s office AND my driver’s license number, from 1969.  But, I have a hard time remembering the names of the people I met with the night before, even though I can tell you what we talked about and what we ate for dinner.  I had a really hard time in some of my classes in law school because I couldn’t remember the names of the cases that set the precedence for arguments, even though I could describe the cases in detail!  But, I could remember codified statutes and regulations by number.  I did fine in the tax and bankruptcy codes.  So, with tens of thousands of names in my Ancestry account, I rely heavily on the matching functions provided by the software!

The software, though, does a “perfect” job of matching names.  Knowing how the software works is important to keep us from over-relying on the machine to make the matches, AND missing matches that would provide a lead.  Name matching, even before computerization, has relied on giving greater weight to matching consonants than to matching vowels.  Using SOUNDEX, systems attempt to match the likely sound of the spoken name as a way of finding matches.  Remember, also, that the matching process may assume English as the language.  So, if names match the formula, even though they are obviously wrong to the researcher, they are on the list.  So, “perfect” ain’t so perfect.

Don’t give up!  If the list is long, your answer may be there.  Filter by dates and locations to pare down the list.  If the short list still doesn’t include a match, change the spelling or sequence of the search words.  Spell out words that might be abbreviations.  Check similar names in work already performed to see if there are other spellings, or other names that might be a better match.

Consider that the name you are searching is a nickname, and substitute other options.  Look to other uses of the name in that family or in that community, for instance Matilda, Mathilda, Mattie, and Maud.  Peggy is a nickname for Margaret.  In older European transcripts, the writers often used Latin naming, so consider changing your English word to its Latin counterpart.  Use your knowledge and imagination!  Here’s a test:  What is this name, “Xpfer.”  The answer is, Christopher.  Chi Rho (looks to us like Xp) was an abbreviation for Christ, and “fer” is phonetic for “pher.”  Throw in a vowel and you get “Christ-o-pher.”  If you hit a wall, take a break.  There are literally millions of people entering their trees into the publicly available systems.  Eventually, someone else may enter the answer you’re looking for.  Most of all, have fun!