An an­ces­tor is still an an­ces­tor re­gard­less of the name

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - COMMUNITY - Diane Tib­ert Roots to the Past Diane Lynn Mc­Gyver Tib­ert, author of Scat­tered Stones, is a free­lance writer based in Cen­tral Nova Sco­tia. Visit her Roots to the Past blog (https://root­stothep­ast.word­ to learn more about her ge­neal­ogy writ­ing.

Per­haps it’s age, or ex­pe­ri­ences or wis­dom, but I see things dif­fer­ently now than I did in my 20s.

Things that once both­ered me and caused me to re­act – per­haps over­re­act – are of­ten not given a sec­ond thought th­ese days. I’ve learned things writ­ten in stone, in­clud­ing my an­ces­tors’ names, are not al­ways ac­cu­rate.

This new laid-back at­ti­tude ap­plies in par­tic­u­lar to those names found in count­less records and on head­stones across the At­lantic prov­inces.

I now con­sider most names fluid. Of course, there were in­di­vid­u­als whose name ap­peared the same on every record from birth to death, but they were not the norm.

For many peo­ple, their names were found recorded in at least two ways. Take for ex­am­ple the name Mary El­iz­a­beth Smith. Her birth record may have ap­peared ex­actly that way. In the first cen­sus, she might have been recorded as Mary Smith. In her sec­ond cen­sus, she might be El­iz­a­beth Smith be­cause her mother was also Mary, so they called her by her mid­dle name. By the third cen­sus, she was a young lady, and she might have gone by Lizzie or El­iza.

By the time Mary had seen her fourth cen­sus, she was prob­a­bly mar­ried. She might have been recorded as Mary E. Jones. After an­other 10 years and half a dozen kids, she might have given her name as Bessie Jones.

Bessie was all those names but, more im­por­tantly, she was a per­son, per­haps the great­grand­mother of the re­searcher. Re­gard­less if she was called Mary, El­iz­a­beth, Bessie, Lizzie, El­iza, Miss Smith or Mrs. Jones, she re­mained the per­son she was, iden­ti­fied more by the legacy she left be­hind than the names recorded in his­tory.

The num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als with the name Mary or El­iz­a­beth who set­tled in the Mar­itimes is as­tound­ing.

Their names weren’t unique but the women who bore them were. More spe­cific in­for­ma­tion is needed to truly iden­tify and recre­ate this woman who played an im­por­tant role in the growth of her fam­ily. Date and lo­ca­tion of birth, names of her par­ents, sib­lings, hus­band and chil­dren, the places she lived and her death de­tails cre­ate the ba­sis of who she was.

To bring her more in to fo­cus, we still need more. Did she travel, did she play an in­stru­ment, did she vol­un­teer, did she work and, if so, what did she do, or did she love to skate, sing or write let­ters to fam­ily? All th­ese de­tails, both large and small, are more mean­ing­ful than a name. They etch an im­age into the minds of those who learn them like no name ever could.

When re­search­ing a woman sim­i­lar to Mary or any­one else in the fam­ily tree, and a name is found, how do we know it’s the right name? We don’t; we only know that at this given time in this cir­cum­stance this is what the name was. Record it as be­ing the ac­tual name. If fur­ther re­search un­cov­ers a clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the name – as in El­iz­a­beth in­stead of Bessie – use El­iz­a­beth as the given name and Bessie as the nick­name.

In the end, names are only like num­bers; they help iden­tify the hu­man.

What makes our an­ces­tors fas­ci­nat­ing are the facts be­hind the name.

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