Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2005-11 > 1133187995
From: "Linda Merle" <>
Subject: Re: [Sc-Ir] Re: Name changes
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 06:26:35 -0800
We are told by the gurus (who teach the classes and write the books) that the main reason amateurs fail to bag their man is that they think name changes are significant. So those who think there is a difference between a Mc and Mac name or the way a name is written (little c, big c, no c at all, just a
' as in M'Elhattan) apparently slept through that part of the talk (I saw you there.....!!!).
You can read more about this in the archives of the list and
a few books named in the archives. Also if you have access
to the standard surname books, they have short front essays
on the evolution of British surnames.
To summarize, English spelling was very late in standardization.
If you doubt this, www.google.com for "The Faery Queen" by Spenser, an Irish immigrant living in Queen Elizabeth I's
time. Spenser did go to school but his spelling is very creative. Our surnames were spelled phonetically. You had thousands of accents, each hearing and pronouncing names differently.
Even the notion of a surname is very recent in some areas:
Wales, the highlands, and Ulster. In Robert Bell's "The Book
of Ulster Surnames" (the definitive work on Ulster surnames),
he details many names that were used interchangable with
others as late as 1900. I just opened it randomly and on
my first attempt found on p 303 under NELSON that around 1900
Helson and Neilson were used interchangable in south
At various times and places people attempted to affix ethnic
tags to surname spellings but these of course have no bearing
on the religious and ethnic identities of ancestors, just of
the current bearers. When there is no standardized spelling
and no concept of a fixed surname, changing it is a no brainer.
In fact the majority of our ancestors viewed a surname as a
nasty thing, like a social security number. It was imposed
by law by the British Gov in Wales, Ireland, and the highlands
of Scotland. It's only purpose our ancestors knew was to
make it easier for the government to draft you or hang you
or make you pay more taxes. The same is true of the Social
Security number. Names, the gov now knows, are too dang
slippery to actually use to bag taxpayers and cannon fodder.
We got to keep this in mind when bagging ancestors too <grin>.
Thank the lord for DNA as now at least we have hope.
So don't stump your toe on the most obvious rock in the path.
There is no difference between a Mc and a Mac. If you think
there is, read the definitive works on the topic and attempt
to recant them. I think you will find that you can produce
little evidence to the contrary (excepting of course what
Grandma might have said !!).
My maiden name is MASON, an occupational surname. Y ou'd think
any fool could spell MASON, but in researching them in
church records, I've found an astonishing array of spellings:
Mazon, Maison (dude had too much French under his belt!),
Masonne,to name a couple. If they couldn't spell MASON they
sure can't spell our Gaelic surnames. They being officials
writing down the name. Even if our ancestor had a notion
how it was spelled, do you think the vicar, priest, or minister
gave a toot?? He didn't. Nor did the sheriff or tax collector.
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