Genealogy 101 - The Correct Name Is..._Washington County PA Genealogy and Family History_Little Washington

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Washington County 'Little Washington' Pennsylvania
 Genealogy and Family History



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History of and Other Families (o_f) from 
The City and County of Washington Pennsylvania

Enhance your genealogy research about families in Little Washington, Washington County PA using  newspaper articles, birth, death, marriage, notices, obituaries (often with cemeteries named), probates, deeds, surname finds, family trees, family histories, reunions and other information. Site Search or Page Search (Ctl Key+F) easily finds items of interest.

Washington County Pennsylvania History and Families

Genealogy 101 - "The Correct Name Is..."

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The Correct Name Is...

By Judith Florian

Helping my grandmother to do her hobby, genealogy, was a complicated decision but one I deliberately made. She had just lost her lifelong spouse. But, raised of stocic stock in a German-PA Dutch-English ancestors, she always tried to act strong-- even when she wasn't. She was very loving, yet, had trouble accepting enthusiastic displays of affection-- such as those given by young children to their parents or grandparents. It wasn't her fault; her reactions were formed by expectations of her generation (WWI and WWII) and living in the constant shadow of coal mining which her father, brother, and husband followed. Crying was a private matter; asking for emotional support was not in her constitution. It left me feeling as an outsider to her personal grief after grandpap died. And unsure of how I could get closer. So I decided upon another tact. Slowly, I began asking questions about HER only hobby, genealogy. With a specific topic to discuss, she talked longer and "life" came back into her voice, rather than the far-away detached tone of sadness of the last few months. 

When I graduated from nursing school-- and bought my very first car, at age 26---it naturally followed that I could then ask if she wanted me to go to the Court House for her. Thus began my treks to Courthouses in Washington Co PA, and eventually, to Bedford Co (white-knuckling my trek over the mountains in thick fog), and through the mostly bland and boring landscape to rural Carroll Co, Ohio. Eventually, I even made it to Frederick Co. Maryland, all within months of getting my license! 

I'd call her from each location, to update her on my "finds" and get more "how-to" directions from her. "Next?" I'd ask after giving her my "report". 

One day, as I ran through the records I'd checked with largely negative results, I complained I'd only found "ones with wrong spellings, not the *correct* spelling of 'LANE". Thus, she began a 30-minute lecture, at long-distance rates being charged to my motel room, I might add! Her lectures were always full of rhetorical questions, ones designed to make me think something through until I caught on to HER thinking. It was a little game she liked to do, probably a tactic she had used all those years as a Sunday School Bible teacher. I willingly played the game. "If each person's name always remained unchanged," she said, "wouldn't that mean more of us would have identical last names?" "If one of our great-great-great grandfathers turns out to be named Laine, Layne, or Lehn, would that mean he spelled his name wrongly--- or--- would we deserve the F-grade for spelling it "L-A-N-E" all this time?"  She'd end her talks by giving me, the only student of her long-distance "classroom", the correct answers.

So I'd dutifully check every variant spelling, always hoping I'd find our unknown connection to our elusive ancestors--- or even some connection to our ancestors' distant relatives. I just wanted to find *someone* I was sure was ours and I didn't care which generation I found. I just hoped I could give my grandmother some new information!

I did find new information, exciting finds! Like, finding out our Daniel Lane was indeed the son of John Lane, Sr. And within a short time, being able to tell her my first Title Search revealed where John Lane's land was along The National Pike. And then, after many dead ends, finding out that John Lane Sr. had other children, namely, John Lane Jr in Indiana, Joseph Lane in Ohio, and Mary A. who stayed in Washington PA along with Daniel.  I found spouses and the grandchildren... but, all of their names were simply: L-A-N-E.  Perhaps grandma was wrong all along, I thought (but never said).

I devoted most of my search to doing LANE but never had time to do our other families: ANTHONY, WALLER, PEES, DENMAN, etc. I did begin to research PEES, which soon became a search for PEES, PEAS, PEESE, PEASE (oh Grandma was right!). Mysteriously, my ANTHONYs at one point were ANTONYs. But, long after my grandmother died in 2000, I discovered more name changes. 

Joshua Alpheus Denman became Andrew J. Donley and was Donley from 1867 to 1909 -- longer than he'd been Denman. Another man in one of our families had as a child returned home to find his step-father had killed his mother and when this boy came of age, he left the state and made a new name which he has used for over 70 years. The stories go on and on about why one name became a different name, or why a name lost a letter (or two).

My point is, you shouldn't think your name is the only "real" or "correct" name. Just because Joshua Alpheus was named a Denman, (a) he was "given" his father's name even though the parents were never married and weren't even in the same State after conception (i.e. he should have had his mother's name instead), and (b) there are now many generations of "Donley" for whom Donley IS correct despite their gr-gr-gr-gr-grandfather taking an alias and having part Denman blood. Whether spelled Anthony or Antony, it was "correct" for the person who spelled it that way. Many of our immigrant ancestors altered their names. And for African American slaves, do we now say the names they were given or chose are now "wrong" or "incorrect names"?

The only "correct" thing in genealogy is who (a) by blood is related and (b) who by conscious decision has made "relationship" to each other (including conscious decisions made for children by a parent or guardian). Names only serve as guides, but we must follow the name trail, desepite our own ideas of what is right or "wrong" names (even though "right" does not exist, really). For example, even though George Denman's (blood-biological) father was Joshua Alpheus Denman, Joshua left before George was a year old and George was raised by his step-father, Jacob "Jake" Miller, a relationship made by the conscious decision of George's mother when she re-married. Neither name is "wrong". Both should be tracked and recorded in the genealogy.

When some Anthony men dropped the second "n", neither name is "wrong". It's not the same as misspelling "continent" in grade school. 

Instead, naming has more fluidity throughout time and does not have a "right" or "wrong" regardless of how we spell our names today. 

I only wish I'd known this lesson early on because I probably overlooked many records that were, indeed, for our families.

Submitted to the Washington Co PA Rootsweb List on Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 3:10 PM

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Page added August 2011


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