The joy and frustration of names

Names in family research can be a joy and a frustration. A joy, because they often tell a story and often provide links from generation to generation. A frustration, because often the records and/or legal names don’t match the names used day to day and tracking people can be difficult.

Examples of the joy: my grandmother, Opal Robertson Cottrell, named her ninth child and fourth son Jerry LaStone. Spell it out. That’s L-A-S-T O-N-E. (He wasn’t — he has a younger brother and two younger sisters.) And she named her last child Patricia Ensign, in the expectation that her oldest son was about to accept an ensign’s commission in the U.S. Navy. (He didn’t; family legend is that he discovered he would have to pay for his own uniforms as an ensign and so accepted a warrant officer’s commission instead).

Examples of the frustration: My great great grandfather Gustavus Boone Robertson is Robinson on the 1850 census and Robertson on the 1860 census. His son, my great grandfather Jasper, is Robinson in 1900 and Robertson in 1910. His widow was Robinson again in 1920. (The name is common enough that it’s hard to track people even when it’s spelled consistently, doggone it!)

My grandfather’s family is just as bad. His family name was spelled Cotrell on the 1880 census, Cattrell in 1900, Cottrell in 1910, Cotterell in 1920, and so it goes.

And then there’s the first-name-middle-name issue. My grandmother named one of her sons Fred after her brother Fred, except he was never called Fred; he’s called David. My eldest aunt was named after her grandmother Eula, but
has always been called by her middle name Cladyne (after her father Clay). Her daughter Bobette is named after a cousin Bobette Gottlieb, except that her real name is Michaela (something I only recently discovered!). Her sister Betsy is really Monte Beth; her sister Kay is really Mary Kay; her brother Tony is really Clay Anthony. My great great grandfather Gustavus Boone Robertson was always called Boone; one of his sons was Alex. B. on the 1860 census and Bird A. in 1870; another son was Elijah in 1850, Elijha in 1860 and John E. in 1870. My great grandfather Martin Gilbert Cottrell was M.G. or Gilbert or Bert, but apparently never Martin. And nobody is even sure what my grandmother’s middle name was. Some say Eula, some say Eileen, and some say it was something weird that started with an O and she
hated it so she simply changed it.

At least my brothers and sisters and I are breaking the mold. Yessirree. My sister Diana is called Diana. My name is Judy and I’m called Judy. Of course my brother Paul was Butch for the first 12 years of his life and my sister Kathryn Cladyne has always been called Kacy (K.C.), and Fred was sometimes Fritz, and Warren sometimes Wallace, and … well… what was I saying about names again?

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