Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Unique Names

According to Wikipedia the five most common surnames in the United States are: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones and Brown. I have most of these in my family tree. Number 17 on the list is Martin. I have Martin's on both my maternal and paternal lines and am also researching the Martins on my husband's maternal line.

It doesn't work to put "William Martin" into a Google search and come up with my ancestors. Even if I add states and/or dates it is difficult to find the right people. It is important in this case to be able to put in as much information as possible. How do you do this if the information you need is the information that might tell them apart from one another.

Sometimes to get to these more common names it is important to look for unique names. Either a sibling or even a neighbor whose name stands out in a list. Coming to your ancestor through the back door so-to-speak.

One of my favorite research stories is about some information I received from a client that her ancestors were named Lassie and Laddie _______. Really? In depth research in the county where this couple lived led me to learn their names were Lasophine and Aladin. Not very common names in the late 1800s.

My brick wall lines are the names Wilson, Jackson and Reed. They are all stuck in the early 1800s one of the hardest time periods to research as far as I'm concerned. Sometimes you can hope for unusual given names, like Lasophine and Aladin. Most of us have John, George, Thomas, and James. They are often passed from generation to generation. It isn't uncommon to find a John Martin Jr. and Sr. along with a couple of uncles all in the same area. Keep in mind Jr. and Sr. didn't necessarily mean son and father. It just may have been a younger and older man with the same name in the same area.

What about names for characters? I sometimes use my ancestors. I also watch the credits after movies and grab a first name here and a last name there. There are some really strange (or unusual) names out there.

Great, Great Grandfather Francis Marion Martin and great-grandfather William Albert Martin.

My husbands great grandmother Evelyn Lucille Martin Overdeer. 

Perhaps one day we will find a common ancestor. I know couples who have discovered they were very distant cousins. It seems that could become an interesting story.