A Little Lesson in Irish Names
I have long known names can be tricky. Sources like a census, or even newspaper articles were often based upon oral descriptions, such as the subject telling the census taker the names of his family members. So it isn’t uncommon to find names misspelled, or abbreviated such as Jas. for James, or Jorg for George. Especially in the United States where there were large numbers of people immigrating each year, a census taker whose native language was not English might completely misinterpret the spelling, for example in an 1900 census of in Minnesota, Emily Craven becomes Emelie Greaven.
Of course, certain ethnicities have strange nicknames that you must follow ( i.e. a Swiss man named Placidus might go by Plotz, Placy, Platzi, Plazzy, or any number of other spellings and even then you find an occasional Paul in place of the Swiss name.)
But it seems to me that perhaps the Irish are the most confusing to follow. Margaret can be Mary, Marie, Maria, or even Martha or Millie, or if that woman were to have had family with the name Margaret as well (which is quite common) it’s possible that Margaret went by her middle name (for this example, we’ll say Sarah) at times in her life, and once you get into the nicknames for the middle names (Sadie, Sally, etc.) it gets quite confusing!
To top it off, perhaps Margaret Sarah went by Sadie as a baby, since she had an older sister named Sarah, and when her sister died (as a child), she started going by Sarah, and then after moving away from her mother, who as we said earlier was named Margaret, to America, she started going by Maria. So you see, it can get very complicated very quickly.
While this gets confusing, it is something that any good genealogist looks for and expects. Name variations are something you quickly become accustomed to in family history research. Of course, every once in a while you can still be surprised. In researching a family called Cosgrove, I began to edge toward the 1850s finding more and more references to Crosgrove, Crossgrove as well as intermittent use of -grave rather than -grove. All of that is well and good and completely expected. However, I hit a brick wall when I reached this family member:
Robert Cosgrove. I even had an obituary and a tombstone, and from there I found nothing. Of course, having had some experience with this I knew the common routes to go, and I checked everything I could think of, John Robert, Cosgriff, on and on. What I did not expect was to find out that before they came to America, the Cosgrove/Crosgroves were called Croskery.
You learn something new every day! Once I was able to find that, things became a lot clearer in tracing the family back. I’m extremely thrilled with what I’ve found.
** Images above are courtesy of J.E. Stockman who has a wonderful family tree website dedicated to the Cosgroves/Croskery’s.
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