What’s In A Name?

June 18, 2014

I have always been one to give nicknames to my kids and grandkids (and neighbors or people I see around town, but don’t know), whether they are aware of it or not. Jenni has had many names that I have called her for decades and ‘dolly, ‘dolly doodle’, ‘doodle dob’ have stuck around. We recently came out of a restaurant and she was slowly dragging behind me and I said to her “Step it up, Choppy McDougal.” These names just come out of nowhere, even though ‘Choppy’ has been churning around in my brain for a couple of years. (A whole different story with that one.) Which got me thinking about NAMES.

I wanted to see where the old gene pool I came from, came from, so, ten years ago I started searching for my ancestors and the only information I had was what my dad told me about his parents, and my mother was already passed away so I had to go by what I knew and what my dad knew. I had asked my aunts and jotted down the few things they recalled, but I already knew that the Italian, DeVito-Angelicola trail would be as slippery as a linguini noodle, disappearing into the abyss of thick spaghetti sauce. I then began searching my paternal grandparents’ names and family history through ancestry.com. I searched, truly read through hundreds of names and if a name matched, I did not ‘link’ it to my tree without definite proof. (Too many folks see a name, an age that is possibly correct and assume it’s their link/… more times than not, it’s the wrong family. And they have a false tree.)

I finally hit gold when I found my paternal grandmother’s name. My great grandfather was named Lorenzo but I found him under something spelled a little differently.  His wife was Catherine and came from Ireland as a child. Their daughter (my grandmother) was named Mary, simple enough. Ha!  I read through hundreds of names, hundreds of pages and nowhere was there a Mary Richards with parents named Lorenzo and Catherine. Then I stumbled upon THE record that I had spent so long looking for. The reason for my complete block-wall-hitting? Her given name was Sara Agnes. Who in the heck just up and changes their child’s name on census records? My dad later told me (after I relayed the new information I found on his mother) that he had been told his mother was called Sara, but his grandmother found out that her husband dated a girl named Sara, so she changed it. Just like that. But that is NOTHING compared to other things I ran into. My dad’s grandmother on his father’s side had a last name of Mutty. Her given name was Adaline. I contacted other MUTTY researchers and they all had their information, but mine was no where to be found. One day I was thumbing through document after document and my keen sense of alertness paid off. Not only did the Mutty family CHANGE their name when they left Canada to cross over to Maine, they decided they would now be called Thibadeau. The names changed from census to census, Adaline went from Mary, back to Adaline. (WTH?) On a wedding record I received on an aunt from the county clerk’s office (whose mother was Adaline Thibadeau), on the record it lists the last name, typed in, as Biladeau, then it’s crossed out and the word MUTTY is handwritten on top of it. (I assume Biladeau sounds like Thibadeau so the person in charge of records just wrote what they heard?)  Then to make it worse, on the database listing this aunt who had passed away many years ago, it lists her mother’s maiden name as MUTTRE. (What happened to MUTTY? Ia that even legal? Family members believe there is a direct Native American or Canadian Indian heritage in those lines and I have not found a direct link.  At all. Maybe hundreds of years ago there may have been someone who ‘hooked’ up with someone from this heritage in their bloodline, but all of the MORIN clan came from France, Acadia, Quebec: then crossed over to Waterville, Maine. And their names changed as often as the the cold Canadian and Maine winds blow in and out of the region.

My mother’s side is just as confusing and my grandmother’s name is NOT EVEN close to what we grew up as knowing her to be. The few measly pieces of information I have dug up is tucked away and I have had NO further luck.

When census takers came door to door collecting information, the citizens who answered the doors and spoke to workers told them anything they wanted. Misspellings were TOTALLY common and whatever name they decided to give the census taker was never checked out. You could go by what ever you wanted.

I think I’ll go by Choppy McDougal.

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