Tuesday, 30 October 2012

What's in a name...

The same as with most Family Historians there are certain times when researching family history that I’m left with unanswered questions

Earlier this year I spent a very long time searching for verification for a particular man named Joe.
Because this man's  gt grandfather, his grandfather and his father were all named Joseph,  I naturally assumed this Joe had been christened Joseph too, especially as on all relevant census' his name is written down as either Joseph or Joe...even on his marriage and death certificates he's down as Joseph......So why couldn't I find a birth record for him!
  False leads led me to acquiring two wrong birth certificates for him.

...After putting Joe's family details to one side for a while, I went back to it in the late Summer with fresh eyes.  I just knew there had to be a clue somewhere in there. I set to and reread every piece of information I had on the family.  I remember distinctly the  *Eureka* moment....I was sitting with cup of tea in hand reading through a copy of Joe's grandfather's will. In it he mentions his son Joseph and a grandson JOSIAH..surely this had to be the Joe I was searching for....Thank goodness it was!
Everything was straight forward in tracing his birth record after that.

It’s taught me never ever to make assumptions.
….Although I'm left to wonder why after so many generations of naming a son Joseph, why the family suddenly decided to change the name to JOSIAH.  The name was shortened and he was known throughout his life as Joe, the same as his ancestors before him.
Evidently his siblings thought his first name was Joseph at the time of his death in middle age, because that’s the name which one of them registered for his death certificate.
I’ve even pondered as to whether it’s his birth  name which is incorrectly recorded and it actually should be down as Joseph not Josiah – but if that is the case why would his grandfather refer to him as Josiah in his will!...that is a question I will never know the answer to.

Thank goodness a hundred years on we are more meticulous about what is actually written on our records, although errors are still occasionally made.


  1. Pleased that you found Joe :-) I once complained to a registrar friend about the errors on death certificates. He admitted that he had made errors on BOTH his parents' death certs. Stress and grief do funny things to our brains!

  2. No matter how thorough we think we are, we can never be certain that the information is correct.

  3. I am a great believer in thoroughly researching the relatives, as you did. And I have lost count of the number of times when a will has overcome a dead end in research for myself or my clients!