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Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Chickie, Bunny, Jack, Minnie, Dolly, Mo, Max, Dick, Fannie, Popeye, Mama, Papa, and many more nicknames of this sort appear on my family tree.  In fact, for my Flanagan's, I have written a special "key" for deciphering the nicknames of the family members to match them to their legal, given names.

Now, I know why my grandmother used to say that she could not stand nicknames because then you never really know the real name of the person that is being referred to.  As cranky as that might have sounded at the time, I think she was onto something.  She insisted on calling her own children by their given first names.  She refused to shorten them when addressing or referring to them.  Robert for her was always Robert and not Bob, Rob, or another variation of the name Robert.

In my quest to find my family, I completely understand why nicknames on census and other source documents are completely confusing.  My granddad's legal, given name was Francis but I see it as Frank everywhere.  That may not be a big deal but it can still throw you off when you're using a picky search engine to locate your ancestors.

I looked up a definition of the word "nickname" and found the following on Wikipedia: "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name, or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name."  I further found where nicknames are usually awarded to and not generally chosen by the recipient.  I must admit that a few people have tried to call me Kris and it just doesn't really work for me.

Now, I do have quick cute nicknames for my own children but generally call them by their full first given names.  I am not opposed to nicknames in their entirety.  I refer to Sacramento as "Sactown".  My only wish of past documents is that people would have spelled out legal, given names rather than nicknames.  That's a rather rhetorical request that just can't be filled at this point.  I live with my "keys" and "legends" to help guide my research when it comes to my ancestors' "nick" names.

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