Sunday, June 07, 2009

Initials in 19th century documents

From: Tim
My great-great grandfather, as a missionary preacher, started several Baptist churches in Texas (and other states) during the 1880s and I have found that documents from the time never mention full names, but only first-middle initial preceding the surname, causing many an error
and headache to modern genealogists and historians. Was this common only in churches or was it practiced throughout society in general?

Ol' Myrt here believes the irksome habit of hiding full identities through the prominent use of initials instead of given names in ancient documents was a practice perpetrated by individuals who obviously advised their descendants to purchase stock in companies providing aspirin, acetaminophen and other headache remedies.

Seriously, though, there were no set guidelines. You will note in 16th century English parish records of christenings, marriages and burials, the entries vary in detail from priest to priest within the same diocese. Census enumerators were given guidelines yet a wide variety of creative adaptations are noted within my personal research.

All this is designed to keep us on our toes and not rely on one document to prove family relationships.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.


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