8 Rules for properly recording names

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When recording genealogical data, there are a few rules to follow about names, dates, and locations.

Record Names in Their Natural Order
Record names in their natural order—first, middle, last (surname). Using entire names whenever possible facilitates lineage tracing. If a middle name is unknown, you may substitute an initial if you have one. Names should be written exactly as they would appear on a birth certificate or spoken out upon introduction, with no commas required.

Record Surnames in All Capital Letters
Capitalized last names provide easy scanning on pedigree charts and help to distinguish the surname from the first and middle names. Ethan Luke JAMES makes reading a tree more simple than Ethan Luke James.

Use Maiden Names for Women
If you know a woman’s maiden name (surname at birth), write it in parentheses. You may include or exclude a husband’s surname; just be consistent. When you do not know a female’s maiden name, write her first and middle name followed by empty parentheses (). For example, to record Mary Elizabeth, whose maiden name is unknown and who is married to John DEMPSEY, write Mary Elizabeth () or Mary Elizabeth () DEMPSEY.

Record All Previous Names
If a woman has had more than one husband, enter her first and middle name then her maiden name in parentheses, just as you normally would. You should then record the surnames of any previous husbands in the order of marriage. For a woman born Mary (middle name unknown) CARTER who married first Jackson SMITH and then William LANGLEY, record her name as Mary (Carter) SMITH LANGLEY.

Include Nicknames
If you know of a nickname that was regularly used for an ancestor, put it in quotes after their first name. Do not use it in place of a given name, and do not put it in parenthesis. If the nickname is common (e.g., Kim for Kimberly), it is not necessary to enter it; only more unique nicknames must be noted. If a woman named Rachel was often referred to as Shelly, write her name as Rachel “Shelley” Lynn BROOK.

Include Alternate Spellings of Names
Include alternate spellings if your ancestor’s surname has changed spelling throughout time. Illiteracy and name change due to immigration are two possible causes for changing one’s last name. Ancestors who could not read or write frequently spelled their last name phonetically (e.g., by sound), resulting in minor variations over generations. Record the surname’s oldest usage first, then all subsequent usages that are known. For example, write Michael Andrew HAIR/HIERS/HARES.

How to find out information about relatives? You can find it here.

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