Names are how our immigrant ancestors identified themselves
to their friends and family, but it is not quite enough for family historians.
Names are not totally unique. Often there are others who share our name.
Some of us have first cousins with the same first and last name, perhaps
even born in the same year. Our immigrant ancestors had the same situation.
In many of our ancestral countries, the number of unique given or last
names was much fewer than in today's culture. The frequency of common
names, coupled with various naming patterns, wherein certain names were
used again and again within an extended family, make it impossible to
rely only on a name to identify an immigrant. Fortunately, there are
additional ways to clearly identify an immigrant.
The immigrant's birth place is the best way to identify
him or her, but then, this is usually the information we do not know
and want to learn. Furthermore, within a single parish there may be
more than one person with the same name as our immigrant ancestor. How
then do we know which is our ancestor? We know this by associating other
information with the immigrant. In addition to his or her name (discussed
in the previous lesson) and the town of origin (which is the point of
this whole series of lessons), we need to know two more items of information:
a date and a relative.