Double-check those first names

Her name was Magill,
But she called herself Lil,
And everyone knew her as Nancy

- From “Rocky Racoon” (Lennon/ McCartney)

There’s an informality about the Irish that goes right to the heart of the culture. As a genealogist, this is most evident in the use of Christian and surnames in the Irish historic records. A woman or man will often have a formal English version of their name for official use, and an Irish and/or a diminutive for everyday.

So Bridget can be Bridie or Delia; Jane / Sinead; Edward / Ned / Eamonn; Bernard / Brian /  Briain; John / Seán / Séan / Shane; and Katherine / Kathleen / Caít.

Where a child was named after a parent, they are often identified as ‘young’ – ‘óg’ or ‘little’ – ‘ín’. So Bridget daughter of Bridget would become Brídóg or Brídín, etc.

To further complicate things, the spelling of a family name can vary between documents.

Right up to the late 1800s literacy levels remained low in Ireland, and official records were made by a clerk or local clergyman, who would record the version of the name they themselves were most familiar with.  The legacy for the genealogist, is that in order to be sure we have searched all surviving records, we must search all variant spellings of names.


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