We wish you all a happy holiday and a healthy 2017, filled with family and friends.
This year has been filled with lots of genealogy research but not a lot of blog postings. That's something to think about for a New Years resolution! But now it's time to thank all the new researchers and relatives who have contacted us this past year, and to all others who have kept in contact. Your help and support means a lot. We thank you all, and look forward to more conversations and discoveries in the new year.
We wish you all a happy holiday and a healthy 2017, filled with family and friends.
At the start of this brand new year, I would like to take a brief look back at the accomplishments of the past year, genealogically speaking, before moving on. A big shout out to Amy Johnson Crow, genealogist and blogger extraordinaire, who for the past two years has hosted her “No Story Too Small - Life is made of stories” blog, and administered her “52 Ancestor” challenge. I heard about this challenge in December of 2014, and began participating on 1 Jan 2015. Because of this challenge, I wrote and posted 52 postings last year, plus 3 other posts not directly related to this challenge. I know for a fact that these stories would not have been written, at least in this format and timeframe, had I not felt accountable to this challenge and supported by Amy and the other bloggers. The goal of the challenge was to write a weekly story of any length about an ancestor or relative, optionally including the theme of the week. And I did it!
Writing 52 stories seems a lot (it was), and did take a lot of time. Most stories required a lot of review of known information plus further research, even as I wrote each story. I was also surprised to realize how much I didn’t know about the subject until I started looking at their life from a story perspective. Choosing the ancestor to write about each week was no mean feat either! I found the themes very useful for narrowing down the candidates, so I generally used the theme albeit obliquely in a few cases. It’s been many, many years since my high school and university English courses, so I was reminded anew how a theme is a very effective unifying tool for writing a focused and more interesting story. And I do want these stories to be appealing so they will be read and enjoyed by family members. I think that this challenge has stretched and fine tuned my writing skills (although there’s still much room for improvement), an unexpected key benefit of this challenge.
I decided at the beginning of the year that I wanted to at least summarize all I knew about a deceased person in our trees in a single article, although others chose to write a number of short stories about the same person at various times throughout the year(s). I deviated from my plan on occasion, writing two stories about Terry’s father William Irvine BOORMAN and still not covering all aspects of his life. I only wrote one short story about my mother Mabel Marion ANDREW as it related to a favorite photo of her; so much about her is still left unwritten. My last post was about making a photo memory book for my husband Terry BOORMAN. Both of us are obviously not yet deceased, but I thought that merging the past and the present in the same story about an alternate way of preserving stories was a good transition and “resolution” to the year’s project. Talk about an oblique use of theme!
I wrote about direct ancestors (grandparents…) and collateral relatives (uncles, aunts, cousins …). I wrote about about a number of relatives in our parents generation, and as far back as the 1600s, including my 9-times-great grandparents Lord John LISLE, Lady Alice BECONSAW LISLE, and Thomas HAZARD. And many others in between. My selections were unevenly distributed between the various branches, generally reflecting the amount of research already accomplished in the different lines. Ten of the fifty-two stories dealt with Terry’s relatives (including Terry himself); only one dealt with his maternal THOMAS line while nine involved individuals from his paternal BOORMAN tree. My own maternal ANDREW, RICHARDSON and COMPTON tree is by far the largest so warranted thirty-eight stories. My paternal HENSON tree was the focus of only four stories. So it’s obvious there are many more stories still to write, no matter how small!
I received notice from Amy on December 31st that she would not be continuing the “52 Ancestor” writing challenge in 2016. I will keep writing stories for this blog this year, but not as prolifically and not always in that format. I need time to expand my research and hopefully scale some of those brick walls. My future posts can now focus on the research process itself as well as individuals and family groups in our trees. I will need to pick my own themes as well as subjects. My new plan is not yet set in stone; I will let it evolve as I proceed with my genealogical research in 2016. One thing is certain: there is always more to discover and write about!
A while back, some of us had a conversation about not forgetting the human side of our family research, and to be mindful and respectful of the hardships and the effects of life events on family members. Illnesses, accidents, separation (emigration etc.), death (children perhaps the hardest to bear), love lost, and even the happy times of births, marriages and family celebrations, all take an emotional toll on the individuals as well as impact the whole family. Sometimes we get caught up in the research and forget to listened to the human stories behind the facts and events.
I was reminded again of this the other day when I was writing a story about my maternal grandfather. After WWII he and his wife were separated for about FOUR long years (that finally sunk in!). They lost their farm to the war effort and my grandmother needed to stay behind in PEI to look after her aging parents and invalid mother. Meanwhile, her husband and almost all her children left in groups for the west coast (4 time zones away). The stress of this time took its toll on the whole family, and my grandmother developed a heart condition. A concerned doctor counseled that, for her health's sake, she leave her parents and go join her family in BC. So she did. But can you imagine how torn she must have been, knowing that she'd never see her parents again?
I have a family photo taken at Christmas time in 1950 after Granny left PEI and traveled across Canada to reunite with her husband in Duncan BC (see this photo in my previous post about Harry Charles ANDREW). I can really appreciate the joy behind their huge smiles now!
Then today I saw a posting that shared the following YouTube link. This song really solidified this whole concept for me. It deals with a family divided due to emigration, missing each other and writing letters trying to stay in touch. I think you will be very touched by these poignant lyrics performed by a very gifted Irish singer. You don't have to be Irish - it's universal. The music really adds to the story's impact. Expect a lump in your throat at the very least ...
Kilkelly Ireland Song (1995)
Another researcher recently shared an interesting link to a site where they issued a challenge: write a story about a different ancestor every week this coming year, all 52 of them. My ears perked up at this suggestion, as one of my goals for this blog was to add stories on individual ancestors and family groups.
Intentions are one thing, but as I have only managed to post 6 other articles in this blog this past year, I know that increasing the volume to 52 would be a tall order and quite a leap in productivity for me. One must leave time for actual research after all! But the blog that issued the challenge is named No Story Too Small, so perhaps brief anecdotes would suffice (if this is at all possible for me!). They also make suggestions for optional themes each week to stimulate new ideas and options. And they offer to add a link back to participating blogs, potentially increasing traffic to your own blog. So there are definite benefits.
So perhaps I'll make this my New Years resolution. Maybe. I've still got a few days to decide.
Added 1 Jan 2014
Okay, okay, I've decide I must a least try this. I am now in the process of drafting my first story, and am finding that it is "forcing" me to review, verify and dig further into the life of the ancestor I have chosen. This is a good thing, although it is taking me days to write one story, and the draft is getting longer by the minute. That level of intensity will likely not be sustainable. So it may take me longer than 1 year to produce 52 stories, but I'll give it a go. And if you see the stories getting shorter and shorter, you'll know why!
I find it totally amazing that I can now gaze upon the image of an old will, dating back almost 400 years to the year 1630, and see the mark made (in lieu of signature) by Terry's 10 times Great-Grandfather John Boorman, who was a broadweaver living in Cranbrook, Kent, England. And what an attractive mark it is, as you can see below from a snippet of the image. His mark is also more creative than some I've seen, as they are often just an "X" or a ragged letter such as "T" for Thomas. But in this case it is a curved number sign (or "hashtag" in modern parlance) with a dot in the centre. To my mind this indicates he had a strong character and sense of self . His will has certainly added dimension to this distant ancestor's life and times.
The above snippet from John Boorman's 1630 will is in English (believe it or not) and reads:
I also learned from this will that John left 5 shillings to his son Alixander, bed and bedding and the residue of the estate to his son Edward (who was also the Executor of the will), livestock (including a heifer named Budd?) to his son William, household items (including a "Calldorn" or cauldron) to his daughter Elizabeth Martyne, and the use of his home for the duration of his lease to his daughter Judeth Appse. Bequeaths were also made to grandsons William Appse and Richard Appse. His "brother Richard Turke" (a brother-in-law) was listed as the Overseer (to guide and assist the Executor). The names of Richard Cockerell and Thomas Ramesberye are also mentioned but I am unsure of their exact relationship, as not all we easy to decipher. Certainly a lot of useful information was crammed into one handwritten page!
Learning to read the old English handwriting, with its variations in penmanship, letter formation, spelling and language, has been only part of the challenge. First one has to find the wills and get access to the images, and for that I had a LOT of help thanks to a cousin in Utah. Not all of our ancestors wrote wills and even fewer of the wills and probate records have survived. Wills that far back were probated by a variety of church courts. To find out where to look, there are some good resource lists and explanations on this subject elsewhere online, particularly on England's National Archives site.
Until recently I didn't realize that some indexes and even images of wills can be found online on different sites. For instance, some Kent wills (including those probated the Court of the Archdeaconry of Canterbury) have been indexed and are now listed on the Canterbury Probate Records site. The National Archives site also allows you to search for wills processed by Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). These and other indexes allow you to identify the existence of wills that might belong to your ancestors, but without reading the whole will or existing extracts or summaries, you can't know if you've found the right one. Even after reading the wills (where you hopefully find the names of relatives, friends and witnesses as well as more specific dates and locations), you will likely need to find other collaborative information sources to ensure you are adding the right people to your tree.
So how do you find the images online of the complete wills? One source is the LDS Family Search site, an excellent free resource that I've used for years with great success. Their data collections, indexes, and family trees continue to grow at a fast rate. This includes collections that have been scanned but not yet indexed (so you can't yet search by name). Sometimes the images are available for browsing, which can be a bit tedious, but you can often zero in on a targeted place and/or date, for instance, to shorten your search. Some of these image collections can be accessed at home (sometimes requiring you to log in using your free login at familysearch.org), but sometimes you must go to your local LDS Family History Centre (FHC) and use one of their computers to access the images there (no login required). Such is the case with Kent wills and probate records. The method of access depends, I think, on the type of licensing agreement they have with the collection's source repository, some being more restrictive than others. But it is really worth the trouble if you end up with a new family treasure!
To find more information on the Family Search collections and possible availability of un-indexed images, you need to become more familiar with their extensive Family Search catalog system, a vast matrix of interconnected collections, subjects, titles, and places. If you don't get positive results when searching one particular way, try searching using different criteria. Remember that the images are attached to specific collections, but not to every collection that might be related to the same place and/or subject. I know first hand that finding such images can be tricky, even when knowing that specific images exist. I probably wouldn't have found these Kent wills on my own without being led through the labyrinth of links the first time by a more knowledgeable researcher. So I'm "paying it forward". If you're interested in Kent wills, here's the link to the "England, Kent, Wills and Probate, 1440-1881" collection, which then links to the associated images. Remember that you must go a LDS Family History Centre (as I did this summer) to access images in this collection.
So I will continue to explore these old Kent wills in the hopes of pushing our Boorman tree back even further or expand it sideways in the search of more distant cousins.
We think we've just invented Social Media (in the form of digital apps such as Facebook and Twitter) and the need to know the minutiae of everyone's daily lives, but it was thriving years ago in the guise of personal columns and community bulletins in local and district newspapers. I admit that, until recently, I have virtually ignored these wonderful sources for genealogy research, mainly because of access fees. But some are now free, it seems. And I find it much more addictive than Facebook to browse the online newspaper images in search of tidbits about my ancestors.
I have Mike to thank for telling me about the Prince Edward Island newspaper archives online. Surprisingly the Charlottetown Guardian paper contains a wealth of news about all areas of this small province, including the western Prince County where my mother (and some of her ANDREW, RICHARDSON and COMPTON ancestors) were born. Mike, who is not related to me but who has turned out to be quite generous with his help, first contacted me this past April, wondering if I had further information on the location of the old French / Acadian cemetery which had been established on COMPTON property in PEI Canada. He had spotted a small newspaper article published in 1932:
“Old Deed Cited - It is interesting to note at this point, that an old deed, dated 1807 in which Colonel Compton leased lands to James and Charles Cresswell that he reserved to the French the right of egress and regress to their burial ground. An illustration showing the Church and its bounday is in the corner of the deed. This is in the possession of Mrs. Henry W. Compton a great grand-daughter of Colonel Compton. This was the Mission Church, which was afterward moved to Miscouche.”
This was subsequently validated (except for the date and illustration) by an old lease document, which was drawn up 29 Sep 1814 and (finally) registered on 20 Feb 1817 in PEI. Harry COMPTON of Saint Eleanors PEI (my 4 times great grandfather) leased a small parcel of land to James and Charles CRASWELL of Richmond Parish PEI. This land was known by the name of Churchill, already occupied by James and Charles, and was described as "Seven Acres a little more or less of Arable dry meadow or clear Land Bounded on the West by Lakes the property of Captain Thomas Compton, on the North by the shore of Richmond Bay on the East by Lands now in the occupation of Mr Benj'n Crossman and on the South by Lands the Property of Mr Wm Craswell". Conditions of the lease included "reserving to the said Harry Compton his Heirs Executors and Administrators the width of six feet together with a Dyke round said Premises to the Burying Ground allowing the French agress and regress for the purpose of Burying their Deas [sic]…" We also learned that the church and graveyard were later moved off the property (perhaps in 1819), and by 1880 this 7 acre plot seems to have been absorbed into the neighboring CRASWELL property (then belonging to Harry C CRESWELL) as it then extended all the way to Malpeque (Richmond) Bay.
In the process of this investigation, we became interested in other families including the CRASWELLs who bought land from Harry COMPTON and later his son Thomas. This led to scouring the old PEI newspapers for real estate ads and sales, and it fact any news at all relating to the familiar surnames in St Eleanors and Richmond Parish, PEI. We came up with quite a number of death and marriage notices, and I ended up expanding my CRASWELL trees (even though most are not related to me) so I could better understand relationships and possible reasons for land transfers. William CRASWELL who was the father of James and Charles (and who had bought a couple of larger plots of land from Harry COMPTON in 1809), had another son Robert who married a Catherine COMPTON, a niece of Col Harry Compton.
Having the old newspapers available online is a real benefit to long-distance researchers. Yet finding information in these files can still be a challenge. The newspapers have not been transcribed by human hand. As is frequently done for large collections, documents are scanned using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software that tries to convert the graphic image to text automatically. Success varies widely depending on the clarity of the printing in the image, the varieties of fonts used, and the sophistication of the algorithms used by the software. Too often the text results are unreadable. And as these text files are the ones searched in response to a query, you can appreciate why many actual articles are missed by the search engines. So it pays to search using a variety of different search terms, and even browse the images directly in search of noteworthy items, especially if you have at least an approximate date in mind. Even better, have a friend like Mike who is so much better at finding old articles than I am - don't know how he does it!
It was this combination of tactics that helped me find some old news articles on the history of North St Eleanors, written by Hubert George COMPTON (my 3 times great uncle who died in 1915), the grandson of Colonel Harry COMPTON. He obviously had a keen interest in local and family history, and a gift for writing. In 1937, the Summerside Journal republished his 4-part series entitled "The First Settlers of St. Eleanors". Part 2 includes mention of William Craswell buying 208 acres in 1809. I have also found other articles by Hubert printed in the Charlottetown Guardian in 1905 and 1906, entitled "A Short Sketch of North St Eleanors" (several installments), and "French Settlers at St. Eleanors". Places are described, people and land owners are named, events are mentioned and colourful stories are told. They are wonderful resources! I'm sure there are more I have not yet found, so I'll keep looking.
Of course, all this has become rather addicting, and very much the treasure hunt. As if the Compton research wasn't enough, I decided last week to see if I could find anything about my Great Grandfather Sydney RICHARDSON, the first cheese maker in Prince County, if not in all of PEI. Although I haven't yet found notice of him winning a bronze medal in 1886 for his cheeses (although later, Hubert tells me so), my search query did produce about 32 different mentions of Sydney or his wife in the Charlottetown Guardian. In 1907, Mrs. Sydney RICHARDSON won second prize for her Bradshaw plums in the Prince County Fall Exhibition. In Oct 1915 in the personals, it says that "Mrs. Sydney Richardson, St. Eleanor's, and Mrs. William Andrew, North St. Eleanor's, spent a few pleasant days with friends and relatives at Port Hill." Mrs Andrew was also a Compton and her first cousin. And my favorite notice was published 5 Nov 1928: "Mrs. Sydney Richardson of St. Eleanors, has returned home this week from Seattle, Wash., where she had spent an enjoyable three months visit with her two sons who reside there.” I have pictures taken during that trip, received from relatives in Washington State.
Sydney had by far the majority of newsworthy mentions. He won a good number of prizes at the Summerside Exhibition, primarily for his garden produce: carrots, Winnirgstadt cabbage, parsnips, self-blanching celery, and Roxbury Russet apples; he also was a prize winner at the Seed Fair and for his eschallot seeds. Along with his daughter Miss E. L. RICHARDSON (my grandmother Eleanor), he also raised Orphington Buff chickens, and it's interesting to note that in 1911 Eleanor won 1st prize against her father, then the following year Sydney's pair of chickens bested his daughter's. A bit of family rivalry there! I also found mention of Sydney traveling to Summerside or Charlottetown on various occasions, where he usually stayed at either the Lennox Hotel (once with Horace ANDREWS) or Revere Hotel (once with Fred COMPTON).
Sydney RICHARDSON was also mentioned in:
1909 - Elected as Vestryman, and Delegate to D.C.S. as a member of St John's Church, St. Eleanors
1915 - "Western Personals… Messrs. Sydney Richardson and Bruce Bernard, St. Eleanor’s, were on a trout fishing excursion to Freetown Tuesday evening and returned with a fine lot of speckled beauties."
1921 - Honorable pall bearer at the funeral of Thos Andrew
1926 - Foreman of a jury at the inquest into the death of Anthony Mitchell, killed by his son
1928 - Member of the grand jury for the November term of Supreme Court in Summerside
1947 - A reprint of an old article from 1897:
"Cheese-Makers From Ontario
“Of the 32 cheese-makers engaged on the Island last year, twelve were Ontario men, as folows:- Hazelbrook, Joseph Bur;gess; Baram’s Village, W. J. Stevens; New Glasgow, J. W. Hesseltine; Marshfiled, W. T. Leslie; Stanley, James Bristoow; Orwell, B.F. Dingman; Vernon River, S. T. Wallace; Kensington, Albert Raby; Cornwall, C. J. Brown; St. Eleanor’s, Sydney Richardson; Montague, E. L. Head; Hillsboro, Fraser Morrow. Most of these mentioned have spent two, three or four years in their present positions. Mr. Richardson has been at St. Eleanor’s for 15 years. A number of the Ontario boys have taken unto themselves fair daughters of our Island Province, and are settled down in matrimonial bliss in the land of brilliant cheese prospects.” - Daily Examiner. 1897
1951 - Death and funeral notice.
I'm sure there is lots more to unearth in these newspaper archives!
It is common for many in each generation to want to mark the next generation as its own by passing on family names to their children, and this tradition has been around for centuries in a variety of forms. But perhaps it is now done less often? While names alone cannot be relied upon to prove genealogical connections, they do add credibility to family groups and provide valuable clues when researching family history. There are a variety of naming conventions that I have seen used in our own family trees, so what better way to talk about these practices than by giving some examples.
I was named Claudia because my father's name was Claude HENSON. I have a first cousin Claudine, also named after my father (her mother's favorite brother, I was told). Claude's middle name was Angus because his own father was called Angus (although it was his middle name). Although I have not found any of these names used in earlier generations of my HENSON tree, sharing these names certainly imparts a sense of family connection for these recent generations.
When I was a child, I really liked the fact that my name was relatively uncommon (although I admit that the name itself wasn't my favorite!). There were never any others named Claudia in my class and usually not even in my school, making me feel unique. And as I have no memory of my father (he was killed in a logging accident when I was very young), it gave me a special connection to him than I normally wouldn't have had. Yet I remember having rather inconsistent feelings about how I would name my own children when I grew up. At some point I decided I wouldn't name any of my kids after anyone in the family because I wanted their name to be uniquely theirs (this seems to be the "modern" way, where many parents now seem to almost invent names and/or spellings for their children, perhaps in an attempt to be trendy as well as unique, ignoring family heritage). At the same time I also wanted my future children to have less common names (Ann or John wouldn't do!), and names that couldn't be abbreviated (I think it was my grandmother who also expressed this preference?). And of course I had to like any given names I picked, and I could be quite picky! Needless to say I was influenced by current conventions and opinions of my elders, yet I remember being quite strong in these convictions.
So when it came time to name our own two boys, what did we really do? We ended up following these early decisions of mine only for our second son (choosing less common names that weren't used in either family and that we liked). However, we named our firstborn Russell William BOORMAN (now often abbreviated as Russ) after his father Terry (whose first name is really Russell, named after his father's maternal uncle Russell Kerfoot JOHNSTON who was killed in WWI) and after his paternal grandfather William Irvine BOORMAN (who our Russell never met) and after his maternal great-great-grandfather William ANDREW. (William is a very common name, and both our families have lots of them!) Terry obviously had a say in all this, and my interest in family heritage was already growing so my ideas were shifting. I was happy to oblige. Now that I'm fully addicted to genealogy I almost wish (but not quite) that I had at least partly followed this convention for our second child. Yet by the time he was born, my sister had already given one of her sons the middle name of Andrew, our mother's maiden name, so we're covered!
My mother's sister was named Harriet Compton ANDREW (Compton being her middle name) and she was very proud of the fact that she was named after both her grandmothers: Harriet Washbourne ANDREW (nee COMPTON), and Isabella Harriet RICHARDSON (nee COMPTON). Using a surname, particularly from the maternal side, as a first or middle name for children is a surprisingly common practice, and has led to a proliferation of more unusual given names, some of which are now so common that we forget they started out as surnames.
Both of Harriet Washbourne COMPTON's names came from Harriet WASHBOURN (nee ROBINSON), sister of Sarah COATES (nee ROBINSON) who was the maternal grandmother of the young Harriet. The original Harriet was the oldest child but didn't have any children of her own. So when her sister Sarah's daughter Mary had her first child, a girl, she must have decided to keep her aunt's married name alive in her daughter. Perhaps Mary also wanted a more physical reminder of her her own family, who were all in England while she far away in PEI Canada, having recently immigrated.
Russell Kerfoot BOORMAN, mentioned above, took on the maiden name of his mother Deborah Saphronia KERFOOT. Terry's father was William Irvine BOORMAN (known as Bill). An Andrew IRVINE married an Eva ROBSON, daughter of William Matthew Robson whose sister was Frances Jane ROBSON (Terry's great-grandmother). The ROBSON and BOORMAN families are quite intertwined, but it's still hard to understand why the married name of his grandmother's niece would be chosen for Bill's middle name. Perhaps because they were relatives also living in Victoria BC? Bill always abbreviated his middle name to the initial "I" and when asked, claimed it was his "private I"!
Finding surnames used as given names is like a goldmine for genealogists, although they might not always be appreciated by those on the receiving end, particularly if they were quite a mouthful to say, or if they became the focus of teasing or even ridicule. My mother and her sisters had a paternal aunt named Fanny Coates ANDREW (COATES being the maiden surname of her maternal grandmother Mary Robinson COATES, who also was given her mother's maiden name of ROBINSON as her middle name). Her parents no doubt didn't see any problems with this name, but her nieces found it rather funny that she was named after a garment, so nicknamed her "Fanny Pants", although hopefully not in her hearing! My own first name also gave rise to teasing - where did they ever come up with the taunt "claude hopper"? Children seem to take notice and target anything unusual for particular attention in creative and sometimes cruel ways.
Nicknames and shortened names are often used in families, but can be a source of confusion and cause difficulties when doing genealogy research. People can be hard to find when such names are used in census, official documents and other records. Most families use diminutives such as Bill or Willie for William, Bob for Robert, Jim for James, and Lisa or Eliza or Betty or Beth or Libby for Elizabeth. But who would have thought that Delores Mary would be known as Penny, or that Amelia Amy would call herself Dora? These types of names seem to have no real connection to their real names. Perhaps it would be better to call them "pet names" or even informal name changes (especially if they are self appointed). One family in my tree seems to have carried this idea to the extreme, giving everyone in the family pet names, and even writing a rhyming poem to help remember them. I wish I could find a copy of this poem!
Another family nickname I should mention: my Great-Grandfather Sydney Richardson was known as "Cheesy Richardson" as he was started the first cheese factory in Prince County, PEI, if not not whole of PEI, in the 1880s. And a final nickname story involves my mother Mabel and her two sisters Harriet and Eleanor. According to Eleanor, their nicknames for each other were dreamed up probably by Harriet, and names were based on 3 of their "older" aunts (not sure if they were selected based on mannerisms, popularity or what?). They were all likely connected to Granny Richardson (Ella Compton)'s side of the family. As I don't remember hearing these names used while I was growing up, this might have been just a childhood or perhaps a private activity between sisters.
The use of middle names as the favoured given name is a lot more prolific that I first assumed, at least in our family trees. Some families mad a real habit of it. Terry himself was christened Russell Terence and my paternal grandfather was named Henry Angus. Often the names naturally get reversed, even on legal documents and particularly later in life, perhaps because they're tired of all the confusion this can cause. Terry has for years abbreviated his name to "T R" for that very reason. So I wonder why parents often favour the middle name? After all, they are in control of the order as well as the names! One explanation I've heard is that it just sounds better one way than the other, rolls better offer the tongue, etc. but they prefer the one in the middle. I would also guess that putting an obligatory family name first (and the name you really want to use second) might appease older or more traditional family members. In a whole line of Thomas's (for instance), parents might feel seriously pressed to name their son Thomas as well, so a middle name might come in handy. In the "old days", middle names weren't used, and I am grateful they are now, even multiple names.
There are plenty of examples of idiosyncrasies and non-conventional naming methods used. I have seen names all starting with the same letter in the same family, rhyming names for twins, biblical names, and children named after famous people or favorite movie stars. In the mix there is always a few unfortunate names that fall into the category: "what were they thinking??!!. Double barreled surnames, with or without hyphens, can be used to retain the maternal surname (the Hispanic American naming customs seem better at dealing with this, although this is not evident in our trees). Names can also be chosen to commemorate friends, doctors, teachers, clergy, neighbours, and even local fallen soldiers (an uncle of mine was named this way). Places, objects and words from nature have also been used as inspiration. The list is endless.
In the end, names are what identify each of us as individuals, so we can thank our parents for our name as well as our life. If we don't like the name they chose, we have the power to legally change it, but caution is warranted. When names are legally changed, all record of the original name is officially erased, so be sure it's what you really want to do. My surname was legally changed at age 7, so I have experienced this. Regardless of your name, and regardless of whether there are others with your exact same name (and even the same birth date and place of birth), we are each unique!
Terry and Claudia Boorman have been interested in their family history since the 1980s. They live in Victoria BC Canada.
Other genealogy blogs by friends, family and others:
Their Own Stories
Scott - Our Scotland Roots
Victoria Family History
Canadian Medal of Honor
Lowe Bader Family Ancestry
Victoria Jo's Family Stories
Sorting Through Shoeboxes
No Story Too Small
Amy Johnson Crow, Pro Genealogy Services
Olive Tree Genealogy
10 Genealogy Blogs
Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy
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Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy
Amy Johnson Crow - Helping Family Historians Make More Discoveries