Thursday, February 10, 2011

Marys, Marys everywhere...the confusion that comes when everyone in your tree has the same name

What do you do when your great grandmother's name is Mary Gorry? And your great-great grandmother's name is Mary Gorry? And your great-great-great grandmother's name is Mary Gorry? (And seriously, in my family, I can go both backward and sideways several times more with that name...) And then what do you do when two of those Marys are married to a James Gorry?

For one, it can be very easy to confuse not only what record belongs to which person, but just who is who to begin with. Now, most families don't suffer this name confusion to the extent that my family does, but everyone has someone in their tree who has the same name or a very similar name to someone else in their tree, in which case it can be very easy to confuse two individuals and get information wrong. My best friend is a firm believer that naming a son a junior is not a good idea, because then bills and records for father and son with identical first, middle, and last names get easily mixed up and sent to the wrong person. So it is with genealogical research.

This can also happen when families have more than one child with the same name - sometimes this happens when a first child dies and the family has another baby to whom they give the same name. Such is what happened with my great great grandmother, Mary Tormey Gorry, who had an older sister Mary who died as an infant before my Mary was born. And then there are families (I know both the Irish and the Germans do this) who have a tradition of giving all the sons or all the daughters the same first name and then calling the child by their middle name.

Anyway, my dad mentioned to me that he came across this multiple Mary-James problem when he first started researching his tree, and I thought it was a great point - check dates, check other records. Discrepencies in information can mean human error in making the record. Or it could mean you've come across two different people with the same name. Pay special attention to this if your family has a tradition of giving the same name over and over again!

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