Auntie Peg seated with her sister, May Catherine, behind her
When you were a child were all adults called Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Something? That form of address was expected then. My morning newspaper carried an article about Maya Angelou's lecture on respect when a young woman addressed her by her first name instead of the more formal, Miss Angelou. The event happened in 1989 but tweeting has brought it to the fore again and the quoted reactions in the article were still in favour of the use of the honorific Mr. or Miss.
While I still find it strange to be addressed as Mrs. Something, I'm not sure if I prefer it over my full first name, which I dislike. Let's face it, the use of names is fraught and and changed with custom both more or less than you would think. Names are also a genealogist's stock in trade.
I was reminded how much we use and reuse names when trying to make sense of the generations that just opened up on one of my family lines. They were living in colonial times when the population was growing and large families were common, intermarriage was rife and there were not that many acceptable christian names. Besides, it was tradition to carry on first names in a family. This can be both a blessing and a curse for the genealogy researcher.
It is difficult to untangle families with common names and it sometimes happens that researchers go haring off down the wrong line because they pick the wrong person with the right name as their ancestor. That's the bad.
What's good is if the use of a known naming pattern can confirm the relationships in a family. Use of the Scottish naming pattern helped to bridge a generation gap in my Islay family. A Google search for "naming patterns" shows that there are a few different naming patterns including a colonial American one. Ooh interesting, that's where new information just opened up on one of my lines.
I'm not sure when naming patterns were no longer common. Perhaps when families got smaller? Patterns may no longer be used but the tradition of naming babies after relatives continues. This happened to me. I was named Margaret after my great aunt Peg which I find strange as it appears she didn't like the name she was given if she went by the diminutive, Peg. Why perpetuate a disliked name?
But then, the women in my family seemed to be a bit touchy about what they were called. My mother went by her middle name. I wonder if that was her decision or that of her mother. After all, it was her mother who actually got the authorities to go back to the official record of her birth and note her name down as the more formal, May Catherine, rather than the friendlier, Katie May. I wonder what she would say about recent family trees I've seen online which name her as Katie May.
Changing names make research more difficult. Perhaps at one time there was a story to go with the change, like the ones I know about my great aunt and grandmother. Unfortunately, many of those details have been lost to time the further back you go. It makes me wonder about whether name alteration goes way back as a family trait. As those touchy ladies were on my new-found colonial American line, that research many be even trickier than anticipated.
Italie, Leanne. “Are honorifics for elders relevant? Twitter users tackle the question of when or if we should use first names for older people”. Friday March 22, 2019, Live It! The Province