Friday, January 29, 2010

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...

It's difficult sometimes to decide which name to use as the primary name when there are several to choose from.  Most genealogy programs allow us to enter an alias...that's not the issue.  How do I decide which to enter as the primary name?  Case in point...

My husband's great great grandmother is listed as Duanna Morehead in 1848 in Vermillion county, IN probate court papers (Box 124) when her step-mother sued her in a petition for dower from property Duanna inherited when her father died.
In the 1850 census for Vermillion, Vermillion county, IN (pg. 107a) she is listed as Duanna Morehead.
On 21 Sep 1859 she marries Joseph Dicken and the marriage register (Vermillion county, IL - Bk. A, Pg. 290) lists her name as Duanah Moorehead:
In the 1860 census for Vermillion, Vermillion county, IN (pg. 132) she is listed as Duanna Dicken :
In the 1870 census for Camargo, Douglas county, IL (pg. 268a) she is listed as Duanna Dicken:
On 9 Jul 1872 she passed away and was buried in Broadus cemetery, Douglas county, IL.  Her headstone is engraved Dauanah Dicken.
So my question is...which name should I use as her "primary" name in my database?  Duanna?  Duanah? Or Dauanah?  I would normally lean toward the marriage record, except in this case it appears to be a register that is all written in the same hand.  It isn't anything she signed herself.  Do I assume the headstone is the most correct?  Her husband was alive when she died, wouldn't he have known how to spell her name?   But then more records appear as Duanna, so does that one win because it has the majority?  Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...  Which would you use? 


The Family Curator said...

This is a good question that makes me think about some of my own family names. I use Legacy too, and when I run into this situation, typically I use the "common accepted" name as the person's primary name. I enter alternates under the AKA option provided by Legacy. For instance, I didn't learn until recently that my mother's birth certificate actually lists an entirely different name than she has gone by for her entire life. If I used that name as the primary name in my database, I would even be confused! I list her by the name we all know, and list her birth name as an AKA. (as a note, her name was officially "changed" many years later to the name she uses today).

Thanks for a good question!

Apple said...

Personally I would use Duanna as the most common spelling of the name. I'm not certain there is a correct answer. I have Ruhamah which I've found spelled a dozen different ways but I use the most common spelling hoping to make connections with other researchers.

Nancy said...

I think I would go with the most used spelling. This seems to me to be a case of spelling variations and the lack of standardized spelling during the time Duanna was alive. It's hard to know exactly which to choose.

I have several cases of name changes from birth records to death records in the mid/late 1800s to early 1900s. It seems like they - someone - just decided to use a different name. (I wrote a post about it on January 3.)

It will be interesting to learn what you decide to do with Duanna's name. Please tell us!

Nancy from My Ancestors and Me at