Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You Write With an Accent!

This is a special post to a few of my friends.  Not long ago, I happened to be at an event where we were reading off ancestors names.  These names were from all over the world and some were VERY hard to pronounce.  Afterwards, I said to another observer, "Wow.  Those were some tough names.  It reminded me of my husband; who when given any name or word he is not familiar with, says it with a Filipino accent."  The other observer says, "I do the same thing.  Only I use a Spanish accent!".

You see, Tagalog (a Filipino dialect) and Spanish are the languages the two men know best besides English, so everything foreign has that accent.

It reminded me of a genealogy problem I had years ago.  I had run into brick wall.  I couldn't find the records I needed.  I reviewed all my notes on how to overcome challenges.  "Know your location" one hint suggested.  That's it!  This particular locale had a heavy southern accent.  For instance, my Great Grandfather was named George Washington, however they called him "Wash" for short.  But they didn't pronounce it "Wash"; it sounded more like "Warsh".  I knew that in most cases, he would have gone by the name of "Wash", not "George" and probably never by "George Washington".  I needed to look for both "Wash" and "George" to find him.

At the same time, the surname I was looking for was "Cole".  We Yankees would pronounce that like a piece of "coal".  So, I called up my mother and said, "Mom, if someone were to have asked your name when you were a kid, how would it have sounded.  Say it just like you would have with your accent".  And she pronounced it "co"... like in the word "codependent" or "co-op".  I wondered how a person who might not be familiar with the accent might spell that.  "Coe", I thought?  I typed that spelling into the search engine and wa-la!

If it is occasionally difficult to understand our southern neighbors, how much more difficult would it be to understand the many immigrants of the past!  So when you run into a problem, try saying it with an accent!

Not only do accents give us problems, but handwriting can also be a challenge.  Have you ever seen something like this:

The two names highlighted are NOT "Hanis, Nalken" and "Natson, Jeneve", but it looks like it could be.  If it can look that way, then it could be indexed that way.  The names are actually "Harris, Walker" and "Watson, SOME-MALE-NAME-THAT-STARTS-WITH-J".  (I can't make it out, but I am fairly certain it isn't "Jeneve"!)

When you can't find your targeted ancestor, think about how the name might look if written in a sloppy, slanted, whirl-y type way!  I have been successful by writing the name on a piece of paper Then observing it carefully to see how it might be seen by an indexer who is not familiar with the name.  Or better yet, have a young person (age 12-16) come take a look and ask them to translate it.  When I did this with the name "Richey", I got "Rickey" and "Pickey".  I tried "Parker" and it looked like it was "Porku".

Lastly, know your community and the people who lived there.  By reading the history of a location, you will become familiar with the surnames.  Like in this instance:

Silas, highlighted in pink, was indexed as "Silas Creck" and as "Silas Cruch", but because I am familiar with this locale, I know that a large family by the name of "Creech" lived in this area for over a hundred years!

Hopefully you can look through your brick wall cases and find one of these techniques help you to finally break through it!  Good luck!!  PS...don't forget about the Family History Jamboree in Centerville, Ohio this weekend!!  See you there!

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