With a wrought-iron fence

My grandmother, Erma (Ehrstine) Hodson, left and grandfather with an unidentified woman.
My grandmother, Erma (Ehrstine) Hodson, left and grandfather with an unidentified woman.
Neither one is identified.
Neither one is identified, but I’m guessing they’re farmwives, probably around Brookville, Ohio.

We can assume is that the snapshots were taken on the same day, thanks to the fence and leafless tree – details that are more apparent in the wider, uncropped versions of the snapshots. Even enlarged and darkened, the images are more suggestive than definitive.


Naming patterns as clues to parentage

Becoming aware of the naming patterns used in particular cultures or regions can be a huge help in focusing your search for the parents in the previous generation. For instance, in some traditions, the first son was customarily named after his paternal grandfather, as happens in my Ehrstine generations of Peter/John/Peter/John. Sometimes it also means the first daughter is named after her maternal grandmother. A second son might then be named after his maternal grandfather, while a second daughter is named after her paternal grandmother. These aren’t the only customary patterns, but once you know the key, you can apply it in searching a particular community (or in our times, database) for likely ancestral links. In other words, a household wasn’t likely to show up with all new first names, not until the customs started fading out. (In the Quaker Carolina families, you can see the first names of the Pennsylvanians continuing apart from those of the Nantucket Friends before melding several generations later. And shortly after that, novelty boys’ names like Luther, Calvin, and Wesley – definitely not Quaker but rival Protestant leaders – start appearing, along with more “poetic” novelty names for the girls.)

As I discuss in another chapter, this has presented a challenge to my attempts to place Orphan George’s parentage. From what I see, he and his wife didn’t follow tradition. Who, then, were they honoring?


Where have naming customs helped your research? Have they ever led you astray? Any you care to relate? What advice would you offer?