Nicknames: A Genealogy Speed Bump

One of the most common stumbling blocks in family history research can be nicknames

I encountered a recent research case where I was researching an individual who was referred to as “Nell”. Through research I was able to conclude that Nell was a nickname for several names…in this case Nell was a nickname for Helen.

I began to think about the countless nicknames I have come across in my research and how some of the names are common while others are less so and how both instances can cause research headaches.

In my immediate family I have a Desi, short for Desirae. There is a Sarah, and the grandmother she was named for who prefers to be called Sally. There are several named Joshua, two Joshes and one “J.J.” or “junior”. Every family seems to have a multitude of Williams who may go buy William, Will, Willie, Bill, or Billy. Robert is another fun one with several popular nicknames. A Robert could be a Rob, Robbie, Bob, or a Bobby. For women Elizabeth can be a fun one. Is it a Liz, Lizzie, Betty, Beth, or maybe a Liza?

Another fun instance where nicknames can derail research is when a relative uses a middle name instead of their first given name. My great grandmother was a Lily but if you find her in records for most of her life she went by Mae. I’ve had a friend since childhood who was named Randi Kristina, she prefers to be called Kristi in another case of the middle name preference.

Recently my first granddaughter was born. As with my other grandchildren she was given a heritage name from the family tree, Catherine. Right now, she is a little baby with a big name and only time will tell, will she choose to be known as a Catherine, perhaps she’ll become a Cathy, or maybe even a Cat.

Catherine

What are some common nicknames that you have run into?

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