Pick a Name, Any Name

Like everyone else, I have ancestors who used more than one name. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what name to use when referring to that person.

My great-grandfather Ufkes was born Frederich Janssen Ufkes. It’s clear from census, church, and school records that until around the time of his marriage he was referred to as Fritz. For most of his adult life he was referred to as Fred Ufkes. I’ve decided to use his baptismal name when referring to him most of the time, mainly because that first name that is on his tombstone. I do make a note (with sources) for the other names he used.

My great-grandmother Neill was born Frances Iona Rampley. As mentioned in other posts here, every other record or document uses the name “Fannie,” which is what she signs and which is what was put on her tombstone. So that’s the name I use for her. I do make a note about what her birth certificate says as I do not want to indicate that it gives a name which it does not.

I’ve decided to use my ahnentafel chart as a place to keep track of the names by which I am going to refer to certain ancestors. I’ve pretty much always used what I call the preferred name for each ancestor, but I think I need to add why I am using that name. In some cases it’s because it is what I suspect the person preferred based upon what appears in the records. Sometimes I use the name that is on the birth or death record (particularly if they agree). I try and avoid using a name simply because I prefer it.

I realize that I could refer to great-grandma as Francis “Fannie” Iona (Rampley) Neill by that name every time I write about her. A better approach might be to use the full name the first time I refer to the person and use the name in quotation marks for the duration of the article. That may be a better approach.

This is going to be a longer project than I thought.


One thought on “Pick a Name, Any Name

  1. The first time I note a name I use the full name as you did with Fannie. Then, I use only their initials (FIRN) when referring to them. If there are multiple pages, the full name with initials is listed once and then I go on from there. So far it doesn’t seem to have caused me any issues.

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