Grin­ning and bear­ing ge­neal­ogy re­search

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - COMMUNITY - Diane Tib­ert 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. word­press.com) to learn more about her ge­neal­ogy writ­ing.

While spring-clean­ing my com­puter, I came across an old email I had sent to my brother a few years ago. He was in­ter­ested in re­search­ing our ances­tor known only as Martha. Al­though I had ex­hausted many sources in try­ing to find more about her, the mys­tery of her true iden­tify re­mains.

My brother had never done ge­nealog­i­cal re­search be­fore, so I gave him a few tips to get him started. Read­ing those tips now makes me smile. Al­though I wrote them jok­ingly, I was telling the truth. I sup­pose my sense of hu­mour has got­ten me through a lot in life, in­clud­ing run­ning into mul­ti­ple dead ends while try­ing to iden­tify an elu­sive ances­tor.

This woman he re­searched was prob­a­bly named Martha, but since I found few sources with her name and the hand­writ­ing was ques­tion­able, she might not have been. She lived be­tween 1800 and 1890 and mar­ried my great-great-grand­fa­ther Wil­liam McDon­ald, son of Alexan­der.

Here are the tips I gave my brother.

1) Martha might not be her name. It might be Mar­garet or Mary.

2) There are a gazil­lion Wil­liam McDon­alds in Nova Sco­tia (equally matched with Alexan­der McDon­alds, Marys, Marthas and Mar­garets).

3) Wil­liam is of­ten short­ened to Wm. The nick­names as­so­ci­ated with it in­clude Bill, Will and Liam. The nick­names for Mar­garet in­clude Mary, Mag­gie, Greta, May, Meg, Daisy, Maisie, Pearl, Peggy, Molly and Gretchen. Nick­names are fluid; one might be used in one record, while an­other is used in a sec­ond record.

4) McDon­ald was some­times recorded as McDaniel or some spelling sim­i­lar to it, in­clud­ing McDonal.

5) Alexan­der McDon­ald — the first McDon­ald in Nova Sco­tia — prob­a­bly couldn’t write or read, so when some­one recorded his name and in­for­ma­tion, he would not have known they had spelled it in­cor­rectly.

6) Alexan­der McDon­ald prob­a­bly didn’t speak English, and if he did, he prob­a­bly didn’t speak it well. He prob­a­bly spoke Gaelic. His chil­dren would speak bet­ter English but not per­fect English.

7) It was not un­com­mon for a wife to die and a man to marry an­other woman with the same name. Un­less a death record or a sec­ond mar­riage record is found, you might never know a sec­ond wife ex­isted. Isn’t this fun stuff?

8) If a child died, it was com­mon for the next child born of that sex to be given that name. Wil­liam (born c.1793) had two sis­ters named Cather­ine. The old­est one is thought to have died be­fore the sec­ond Cather­ine was born. This name game can cause a lot of con­fu­sion when sort­ing out how many chil­dren a cou­ple had.

9) It is not un­com­mon in the 1700s and 1800s for all the boys born in a fam­ily to have the first name of their fa­ther. In life, they would go by their mid­dle name. One of our an­ces­tors had seven sons and all their names were John. Only the youngest went by John.

9) The name bank 200 years ago was small. Ev­ery­one was named Wil­liam, Alexan­der, John, Martha, Mar­garet, Mary or El­iz­a­beth. Just jok­ing — well, not com­pletely. Ev­ery fam­ily group in our McDon­ald line had a Wil­liam, Alexan­der, John, Mary and El­iz­a­beth, and they all mar­ried in­di­vid­u­als with sim­i­lar names.

In clos­ing, I’d like to wish you luck. You have lots of hair, so if you pull a few hand­fuls out, you won’t be bald.

“It is not un­com­mon in the 1700s and 1800s for all the boys born in a fam­ily to have the first name of their fa­ther. In life, they would go by their mid­dle name. One of our an­ces­tors had seven sons and all their names were John. Only the youngest went by John.”

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