Dec 2 2012
Now there’s a word you don’t see every day. The Online Dictionary of Language Terminology (ODLT) says:
Etymology – The word derives from the Greek anthropos, human being + Greek onomastikos, of or belonging to naming (from onoma, name).
It is a special branch of onomastics, the study of names. So what does this have to do with Genealogy? Well, in my tree: lots. In fact, I have found several distinct naming patterns and structures in my tree, resulting from the real melting-pot that was the West Indies.
Type 1: Formal Names
If you have any Spanish (or new world Spanish) relatives in your tree, you will have encountered the traditional patterns:
1. [first name] [father’s family name] y [mother’s family name] 2. [first name] [father’s family name] de [husband’s family name],
At first, these are confusing, but for genealogy they are a blessing. I have family members such as:
Juan Quiñones y Diaz (b. 1864)
This tells me that Juan’s father’s family name was Quiñones and his mother’s family (maiden) name was Diaz. Even better is his wife:
Justina Ricard y Garcia de Quiñones (b. 1872)
Her name tells me her father’s family (Ricard), her mother’s family (Garcia), and her husband’s family (Quiñones). Not bad for one name. A good website discussing a lot of patterns is at http://www.langmaker.com/ml0103a.htm
Type 2: Patronymic Suffixes
Early on in my research I came across documents from two members of my family, both with the same name, Johannes van Beverhoudt. Since I was looking at manuscripts (microfilm) I could see by the handwriting that they were different individuals, but I also noticed something odd about their signatures. They read:
Johannes van Beverhoudt C:Z:
Johannes van Beverhoudt E:Z:
After struggling with all of the possibilities (and looking up the Dutch words for “Esquire”, “Junior”, “Senior”), I discovered the simple answer. The Dutch word for “son” is “zoon” and many Dutch signed formal documents by using the first initial of their father’s first name. Turns out that Johannes C:Z:’s father was named Claudius and the other’s father was named “Engel”. So, they would have been pronounced “Claudizoon” and “Engelzoon”. Sometimes a G was used in place of a C, so he became “Glaudius” or “Glaudi”. This became very important as another Johannes van Beverhoudt Claudizoon shows up in indexes under the surnames “Glaudizoon”, “Claudizoon”, and even with just the final z: “Glaudiz”. The “zoon” has helped me associate sons with fathers.
Type 3: Ancestor Names
Many children are named after a relative. My families have demonstrated a particular lack of originality when it comes to names. They reuse the same names over and over. In my van Beverhoudt line there are numerous Johanneses and Claudiuses. Another line of van Beverhoudts (which is probably related) liked Lucas and Adrian. Sometimes the names can suggest a family line.
Naming after a relative is also a common way to keep female maiden names. I always thought President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an odd middle name until I found out that his mother’s maiden name was “Delano”. This pattern can be passed down to children or even skip a generation to keep the name later.
My tree features a variation on this is pattern. Sons were sometimes given the full name of a male ancestor of their mother’s line, and females of a female ancestor. The ancestor’s first name became the child’s first name and the ancestor’s surname became a middle name. This generates some very strange middle names:
- Hester Franklin van Beverhoudt was named for her maternal grandmother, Hester Franklin
- Gerritt Sprewert de Windt was named for his maternal grandfather, Gerritt Sprewert
- Thomas Magens van Beverhoudt, for his maternal grandfather Thomas Magens (pictured above)
- Dedrich Magens van Beverhoudt, for his 2nd great grandfather, Governor Diderick Magens
- Barent Langemack van Beverhoudt, for his maternal grandfather, Barent Langemack
This pattern can be helpful in finding unknown ancestors. For example, my 4th great grandmother, Amey McNobney had a son named Thomas McNobney van Beverhoudt. I have not been able to find any information on Amey’s parents. Based on anthroponomastics, I might want to search for a father named “Thomas McNobney”. Turns out there was a Thomas McNobney living nearby. Maybe this is her father? Worth Checking.
As an aside, this can also help in determining the actual middle names from old script or indexes. While common names like Johannes are easily recognized, unfamiliar arent. I have seen quite a number of variations. One of my relatives is listed in indexes as Didrich Mogens, Didrich Mogen, and Diderich Magnus (Diderich the Great!) van Beverhoudt. However, since I know that his 2nd great grandfather was Didrich Magens, a middle name of Magens seems much more plausible.
So, if you have family members with middle names that look like surnames, maybe you should look for someone by that name in their maternal line. Another chisel for busting the brick walls.