Friday, December 6, 2013

Acceptable Alternatives for First Names

As I was reading my latest issue of American Ancestors (Fall 2013, vol. 14, no. 4), from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I found an interesting article by Henry Hoff.  The article was entitled “Developing Acceptable Alternatives for First Names in Colonial New York”.  He provides information on names among the Dutch, English, French and German settlers in Colonial New York.

There are resources that can provide English equivalents for Dutch names.  Arthur Kelly’s book, Names, Names, & More Names, Locating your Dutch Ancestors in Colonial America, provides an extensive list on pages 161 to 216.  Since I am writing this on St. Nicholas’ feast day, I want to point out that the list includes thirty Dutch equivalents for the English name, Nicholas.  Some are easy to recognize as equivalents, such as “Klaas”, or “Niklas”.   But would you have recognized “Klobes” or “Klaywitz” as an equivalent?

For those researching their German ancestry, the notion of a “Rufname” should be familiar.  It is not uncommon for a German to have a first name (Vorname), and a Rufname.  Several children in the family may have the same Vorname, e.g. Johann.  However each would have a different second name (the Rufname).  For example two brothers might be named Johann Georg and Johann Karl.  The names that the two would be known as would be Georg and Karl.

The article by Hoff passes along information the author received in an email from Henry Z Jones.  There were apparently some German names that would be considered an appropriate equivalent even though we might not see the connection.  Jones indicated that a boy who was baptized as Theobald might be called David, but that a boy baptized as David, would not be called Theobald.  As another example, a boy baptized as Adolf might be called Adam, but not the other way around.

It might be difficult to find an individual baptized as Theobald if he later used David as his name on records.  Understanding the possible alternative could be important to your research.