Researching Family Names
We often have family names that are rather ordinary and don't give a clue as to where our ancestors came from.
Some of our ancestors may have Americanized their names when arriving at an immigration port.
They may have taken a new name that meant something to them, or perhaps they adopted the name of the town they came from instead of a family name. (This is especially common among Norwegians.)
Or, an immigration port official may not have known how to spell a name and guessed at the spelling.
The immigrant, perhaps not knowing how to spell, continued the misspelling.
To find out where your ancestors may have come from, try the following.
Remember that the early censuses always have a hard copy index, alphabetized by surname, and then by first name of the heads of households.
These indexes usually cover the entire state and are easy to search.
You can find them in most large public libraries and genealogical societies. The indexes are also available at the
Online Geneolagy Library.
Military Organizations that Supply Markers for Members:
Abbreviations on tombstones can also be confusing.
The most often used are:
NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES
Several people have asked about Native American tribes with unfamiliar names.
A good online source for locating information about tribes is InterTRIBAL.net's Native American Tribes page.
This site gives you valuable leads on where to start your search.
To find a tribe's original and current landholdings, visit Native American Online.
This site also has extensive links that can be of great assistance.
VITAL RECORDS IN CANADA
The key to conducting research on Canadian ancestors is knowing where to start.
One of the best places is the vital records office for the province in which the family lived.
Although these records may not go back very far (the 1850's at the earliest), they can be useful for finding death certificates of original pioneers.
Below is a list of sites you may want to check out:
Canada GenWeb Project
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
GenWeb of Quebec
Newfoundland and Labrador GenWeb
Manitoba GenWeb Project
British Columbia GenWeb
NWT (Northwest Territory) and Nunavut GenWeb Project
If you can't find what you're looking for, check with the GenWeb host. Do you have some genealogy knowledge to share or have a question?
You can Write to me!
Include your first initial and last name and put the word GENEALOGY in the subject.
I'll try to use your contribution in a future column.
(Please note that these columns are written several weeks in advance so publishing it will be delayed accordingly.)