Donald Lines Jacobus, Connecticut

Who Was Donald Lines Jacobus?

Who was Donald Lines Jacobus, and why should you know about him?

The Connecticut genealogist, Donald Lines Jacobus (pronounced ja cob’ us), was the founder of the modern school of scientific genealogy and the greatest American genealogist of the 20th century. Jacobus and his protégés taught us how to research and write family histories, how to solve genealogical problems, what sources should be used, how to interpret them, and why we must abandon unsupported findings which, in many instances, were built upon flights of imagination as much as on facts.

Jacobus has a long list of achievements, for instance, in 1922, he founded the esteemed periodical, “The American Genealogist” (TAG). We are more concerned with explaining why this sage’s teachings and writings are of importance to 21st-century sleuths. Jacobus’ book publications may date from 1922, but each one still stands as a model of genealogical scholarship. For example, Families of Ancient New Haven is the definitive statement on the ancestry and relationships of 35,000 residents of 18th-century New Haven, Connecticut, and it is the only publication that succeeds in treating every family of an entire New England region. In other works related to Connecticut, Mr. Jacobus, who built on Mr. Edgar Francis Waterman’s files in Hale, House and Related Families, Mainly of the Connecticut River Valley, succeeded in presenting exhaustive data from original sources, in providing new interpretations as well as additions and corrections to existing literature, and in making the family accounts definitive. The index alone bears reference to some 16,500 persons.

Jacobus’s Families of Old Fairfield is the ultimate authority on the ancestry and relationships of approximately 50,000 residents of Fairfield County, Connecticut. It is a vast compendium of family history, meticulously developed from original sources, and in every way an accurate reflection of the investigative genius of its celebrated author.

Jacobus left us scores of genealogy articles that appeared in the “National Genealogical Society Quarterly,” “The New England Historical and Genealogical Register,” and his beloved TAG. In 1968, the Genealogical Publishing Company assembled a number of those highly respected essays and published them as Genealogy as Pastime and Profession.

Genealogy as Pastime and Profession encapsulates Jacobus’ thinking. It describes the principles of genealogical research, the evaluation of evidence, and the relationship of genealogy to eugenics and the law; it discusses early nomenclature, royal ancestry, the use of source material, and the methods of compiling a family history. Jacobus was a wonderful writer, and he brought all of his wit and erudition to bear in this timeless volume. Beginners and experienced family historians will especially love the case study chapter in which the author the sets out to solve the mysterious ancestries of Ebenezer Couch, Nathaniel Brewster, and John Gill. Whether you do your genealogy over the Internet, by cranking the microfilm reader, or strictly by pouring over old documents, you’ll find that Genealogy as Pastime and Profession is as useful today as when it was first published 35 years ago. Jacobus’ advice, by and large, is as reliable as a wise old grandfather’s.

Image credit: Christ Church, Stratford, Connecticut, USA, second church, built in 1743. By/edited by Lucy Jarvis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

popular names by state

Can you guess the most popular last names in your state?

Let’s play the name-game! Do you live in Massachusetts: Try to list all the Sullivans you’ve met in the last 15 years. How about those of you from Vermont: How many of your friends have the last name Johnson?

Go ahead, keep counting. We’ll wait.

The infographic featured in both the cover image and below, was originally posted by the Ancestry blog back in December of 2014, and has since been featured on AL.com and Masslive.com. This map shows the three most popular last names by state. According to the data in the Ancestry blog post, every American knows about five Smiths each.

“Smith, along with Johnson, Miller, Jones, Williams, and Anderson make up most of the most popular surnames all across the country,” the blog reads. “But there are still regional differences. If you are in the Northwest, you are more likely to come across an Anderson than a Brown, which is slightly more common on the East Coast.”

Check out the top three results for your state (click image to enlarge):

popular names by state

name variations

Name is the Game: Maiden Names and Name Variation

Editor’s Note: The post below includes an excerpt from chapter 3 of Lloyd Bockstruck’s book, The Name Is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist.

While we wish we could share the entire book here, we also want to mention some of the other valuable material in Bockstruck’s publication. “Chapter 2: Forenames” discusses the ancestral clues that are inherent in names. Did you know, for example, that the German forenames Franz and Xavier were predominantly used by Roman Catholics? Similarly, if the father of an unborn child died before the baby’s birth, the child might have been named Ichabod. And Doctor was often used as a nickname for the seventh son in a family because it was believed that a seventh son had an intuitive knowledge of the use of herbs.

In our recently featured Part I excerpt from Lloyd Bockstruck‘s book, The Name is the Game, we focused on the history of surnames. Pulled from the same chapter on surnames, the following excerpt discusses maiden name and spelling variations, and how these can affect your research.

Enjoy Part II below:

Maiden Names

In the British colonies outside of New England, civil records of vital statistics may not have been maintained and religious records may not have survived. When the available court records do not reveal the maiden name of a wife, it could be because she changed her condition but not her surname. William Hastings, the son of Henry Hastings, was born in 1759, married his first cousin, Arney Hastings, 26 October 1785 in Amelia County, Virginia. Her father, William Hastings, gave his consent. Fortunately, the civil marriage record survived to make it possible to identify her maiden name.

Olive Branch married his kinswoman Verlinche Branch in Henrico County, Virginia but no civil or church record exists to prove her maiden name. The bride’s forename was one peculiar to the Branch family and was a very good clue for identifying her maiden name.

Spelling Fixation

It is a mistaken belief that different spellings ofa surname applied to people from different families. A good example is Sir Walter Raleigh. His surname became the capital of the state of North Carolina and the seat of Wake County. Another American city named in his honor is Rolla, Missouri although the spelling tends to conceal the connection.

The name of Sir Walter Raleigh has appeared in written records as Raghley, Raghlie, Raileigb, Rale, Raleagh, Raleghe, Raleghus Ralego, Raleigh, Raleighe, Raleile. Raleygh, Ralight, Ralighe, Ralle, Ralleg, Rallleigh, Raughleigh, Raughley, Raughleye, Raughlie, Raughly, Raulaeus, Raule, Rauleghe, Rawligh, Rawlight, Rawlighe, Rawly, Rawlye,Rawlyghe, Raylie, Raylye, Raylygh, Reightly, Reighly, Rauley, Rhaleigh, Rolye, Wrawley, and Wrawly.

In the aftermath of the Civil War George Wise published his work, The Autograph of William Shakespeare (Philadelphia: P. E. Abel, 1869) giving 9,000 spelling variations of the most celebrated individual in the history of the English language. No name is lacking in variant spellings and close attention must be paid to all possibilities. Andrew Jackson said a man who could not spell his name more than three ways was not worth knowing, so Shakespeare falls within that criterion.

Image credit: Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh by Nicholas Hilliard [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

colonial New York, Genealogy, Family History

Colonial New York Genealogy

If your ancestors were living in New York state at the time of the American Revolution, your line of descent is likely to take on one of a handful of forms. If your immigrant ancestor arrived before 1664, you are likely to be descended from a Dutch inhabitant of old New Netherland. After that date, however, tracing your Colonial New York genealogy down the line means your antecedents are far more likely to have been born in Great Britain (England, Wales, or to a lesser extent, Scotland or Ireland). They could also have been New Englanders who migrated to New York from Massachusetts or Connecticut, once New York was under English rule.

After the turn of the 18th century, a number of emigrants from the German Palatinate began to make their way to New York’s Mohawk Valley; however, as late as 1790 only one percent of New York heads of household were of German or French descent. On the eve of the Revolution, New Yorkers were concentrated in New York City, Long Island, and along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and the state trailed Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina in total population.

This picture changed dramatically by the early 1800s, when New York’s population surpassed that of all other states, thanks to the pull of its extraordinary harbor, industries, hinterland, and internal improvements, as well as to the inexorable push of Western European emigrants vying for greater opportunities in a free land.

If you’re researching early New York roots, Genealogical.com (the parent publishing company who sponsors this blog) offer a wide variety of publications you could consider. Running the gamut from statewide to regional to countywide and New York City titles, this extensive collection covers they key record sources (wills, deeds, military records, marriages, etc.) that are crucial to 17th- and 18th-century New York family history. In the aggregate they touch on well over 1,000,000 New York ancestors. In the absence of official New York public records, some of titles for Upstate New York fill in the gaps, and the multi-volume sets of New York genealogies, mostly compiled from obscure, unindexed periodicals will save you an enormous amount of time in your research.

There are also some wonderful online resources dealing with New York history, such as the New York History Blog.

Image credit: Engraving depiction colonial New York councilors Nicholas Bayard, Stephanus van Cortlandt, and Frederick Phillipse attempting to quiet revolutionary fears at the time of Leisler’s Rebellion in New York City, 1689. By Art: Alfred Fredericks; Engraving: Albert Bobbett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

surname history

Name is the Game – Surname History

Editor’s Note: The post below includes an excerpt from Lloyd Bockstruck’s book, The Name Is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist. We are focusing on surname history, as that can be a common question and potential pitfall to be tackled in genealogical research.

Names, like people, have lives of their own, which is why Lloyd Bockstruck’s recently published book about the serendipity and life’s choices that can alter our family names is must-reading for every researcher. Mr. Bockstruck, one of America’s foremost genealogists and the former genealogy librarian at the Dallas Public Library, has distilled the wisdom of a lifetime about the vagaries of names into this work. Eminently readable, The Name Is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist is a collection of illustrations and cautionary tales that can help family historians surmount the obstacles or avert the pitfalls associated with naming practices throughout the centuries.

The book is divided into five chapters, and it engages the reader at the get-go. For instance, in the introductory first chapter Bockstruck relates a number of first-hand accounts that fostered his early fascination with names, such as his initial failure to find the tombstone of German great-aunt Barbara Baker (born Barbara Becker). The introduction’s high point is the incredible story of the peregrinating Scots colonist Ian Ferguson, whose name was recorded as Johann Feuerstein when he was among the Pennsylvania Palatine immigrants, and was later recorded as John Flint when he moved to Philadelphia. Two generations later, one of his grandsons, Peter Flint, moved to Louisiana, where he was recorded as Pierre a Fusil, only to end up as Peter Gunn when he settled in Texas after the Civil War.

While we obviously recommend reading the book for yourself, we will be excerpting from Chapter 3, the “Surname” section of the book. This is the longest section of the book, and it covers lots of territory. Topics include maiden names, spelling, surname misinterpretation, aliases, military influences, changes in language, dialects, surname abbreviations, and much more.

Please enjoy Part I below, and visit us again soon to read more from The Name Is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist:

The use of an additional name to differentiate among people of the same Christian name in a community began as a byname. It was not until that the second name became hereditary that it became a surname.

The first people to adopt more than one name were the Chinese. It was Emperor Fushi who ordered the use of family names in 2832 B.C.

Family names can be grouped according to five categories. One is for surnames derived from toponyms, i.e. places or features of the landscape or ofnames of actual localities.The Jacob who lived at the edge of the woods would become Jacob at the woods or Jacob Atwood. His neighbor who lived in the agricultural belt of the community might become John Fields. William Hill, Robert Brooks, John Rivers, or Peter Meadows are other examples of people taking a surname from a landscape feature. The Germans and the English have a high incidence of such surnames.

Other surnames are indicative of a trade or occupation such as Smith, Carpenter, Taylor, Shepherd, Teacher, Turner, Cooper, and Wheelwright.

Sometimes people who excelled in particular roles in morality plays acquired surnames from their roles. Sheriff, Duke, King, and Bishop are examples of such.

Still other surnames arose to express relationships . Jeremiah the son of John became Jeremiah Johnson. William the son of Richard became William Richardson, and Richard the son of William became Richard Williamson. Sometimes the suffix “-son” was expressed in the possessive so that the letter “s”was appended to the Christian name as in Williams for the son of William or Harris for the son of Harry.

Sometimes it was the diminutive of a forename which Jed to the adoption of the surname as in Dickson or Robinson . Patronymical surnames predominate among the Welsh, Scots, Irish, Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians. They are also widespread among the Germans and Poles.

Surnames also derived from nicknames indicating a physical or personality trait such as Goodfellow, Short, or Black. The Italians and Irish favor this category.

It was said of the Todd family of Kentucky that their surname had two d’s while God had only one.

Please visit us again soon for Part II!

Image credit: Grave stones These are around the perimeter of the ruined church of St Mary’s. By Dennis Simpson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.