Saturday, November 27, 2010

Surname Saturday - Meaning of Given Names

What is in a name? While researching for a Saturday Surname post I started thinking about the various given names in each of our family lines. As in any family we pass these names down to our children as a way to honor our ancestors. Not until beginning this genealogical adventure did I start to wonder about the origins of the names we were preserving.

Then there is the Americanizing of these names when immigrating to the United States. This has been a challenge trying to locate family members on census records, naturalization papers, and service records.

During research to clarify these questions I located several very helpful resources on the U.S. GenWeb Project database:
Common Nicknames

Other helpful resources:

Cyndi's List - Names - The Importance of Given Names

Rootsweb - English Equivalents of Foreign Given Names
These sites have been extremely helpful in tracing ancestors using different variations of given names. When discovering my great-grandmother's death certificate her father was listed as Paul. In the Czech (Bohemian and Moravian) Given Name database we find the origin of that name being Pavel. While researching immigration records this information has been helpful in narrowing the possibilities.

So, what is in your name? Have fun discovering the origin of given names.


  1. My mother has an unusual given name of Olie, pronounced "oh-lee" - the O syllable is pronounced like the beginning of the word oat. Mom was named after her maternal grandmother, whose birthdate she shares.

    I'm still trying to figure out where her grandmother's name came from. Born of two old New England (originally British) family lines, I have not found any Olivia, Olive, Ola, Oliver, Ollie or Olie or similar names yet in those lines. Tis a puzzlement, since everyone seems to be named for someone else in the tree. But a fun puzzlement!

  2. Re: Karen's comment
    Could "Olie" be a corruption of "Aura Lea", from the Civil War era song? You may not find proof but dates and other family history may show if it's even possible.
    Re: Deb's post
    Lots of great links. Definitely name variants can be the bane of any researcher with immigrant connections. Keep in mind that ethnicity and citizenship are not the same thing - more variants!