4. Naming Convention – We have talked before about the importance of naming conventions in families. In many cultures, children are named after their ancestors. This information can be invaluable in trying to track down previous generations. Sometimes, naming conventions in families can provide even more information. For example, Eastern European Jews typically named children after deceased relatives, not living relatives. Not only does this provide a name into the previous generation but it also provides a date range for the death of one individual and the birth of another.
5. Translated Family Names – We have talked before about how people would often anglicize their family name when they move to an English-speaking country. Anglicization is the process of making a name sound more English. Another possibility is that the family (or more likely a customs official) may have actually translated the name into English. This can occur if the family name happens to be a thing, a color or an occupation. For example, the French family name Boisvert is popular in Quebec. It directly translates into the name Greenwood in English. So, if your last name is Greenwood and you suspect that your family came from France (or Quebec) then try tracing your ancestors through the name Boisvert.
Always consider the possibility that your family name was actually translated into English when trying to trace your family back to the ‘old country’. You can reverse engineer this possibility by taking your family name and running it through an online translator from English into the language of your ancestors. Just remember, this likelihood is most likely to occur if the family name happens to be a thing or occupation (i.e. something that translates easily into other languages).
6. Junior and Senior – The titles junior and senior can provide so much misinformation that we sometimes wonder if it is better to just ignore the titles. Here are some reasons why junior and senior can lead you down the wrong garden path. First, don’t assume that junior and senior are father and son. The titles junior and senior just means there are two people in the same family with the same first name. It could be a man and his grandfather or a man and his uncle, for example. In small communities, junior and senior were even sometimes used to distinguish unrelated people who happened to have the same first name. The second major problem with junior and senior is that the title can shift over time for the same person. For example, junior becomes the senior when the senior dies. The only real information that the titles junior and senior provide is that you know that someone else in the family or neighbourhood had the same first name and that is all you know.