31 October 2013

Thankful Thursday - Guides from the Past

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen, in my genealogical research, more than one child born to a set of parents that shared a name with a sibling who predeceased them. Honestly, as a newbie family historian, I remember being pretty befuddled when I saw on the Richards page of a family ‘letter’ this:

Ann – killed in swing – 7 years of age

Then farther down the list, on the next page, there was this:

Ann – married John S. Lane

Here’s the image:

I received this letter, or rather a photocopy of this letter, from Nancy Richards Baer Strubbe – Nan. Nan responded to a letter I’d sent her in 1996, shortly before her husband, John Lewis Strubbe, passed away. I don’t typically have regrets, but I do regret not having had the privilege to know their family better. Of course, that regret is eased by the fact that I’ve come to know Nan’s children, all of whom have been generous and warm to me. And, without Nan having held onto our family treasures, this letter would have never come into my possession.

Fast forward to just a week ago and I was sitting at Nan’s table in her house, the one her daughter Mary now owns and generously let me camp out at for a week of research in Ohio. I was looking at the original of the letter and I was no longer befuddled by the two Anns. It’s not as if the living Ann replaced the one who had died; no, it was really more about keeping family names alive. Honoring our ancestors by sharing their names for the future.

Along with a number of other very important clues, it has been the pleadings of Ann’s sister, Eveline, that has moved my research on this line forward in leaps and bounds this week. While I was transcribing a letter from Eva, written in July 1863 to Ann, she names a number of people who I would not have been able to connect to this family by other vital records. She shed light on the death of her sister, Caroline, who they all called Carrie, which I wouldn’t have known without the letter. I started to dig deeper into Ann herself, which lead me even farther down the road to proving these family ties.

As I was putting the pieces of this their family together, for some inexplicable reason I felt the urge to go over to the DuPage County Clerks office to look into getting copies of the birth and death records for the set of twins my mother delivered between my brother and I. I've thought about doing it in the past, but for some reason I just hadn't done it. So, I did.

Mom had told me they were born in 1960; as it turns out, it was 1961. She’d told me that she ‘knew’ something was wrong in the wee hours of the morning of February 15th, waking my dad and telling him she thought she should go to the hospital. At 8:11 a.m. the first twin was born followed at 8:29 a.m. by the second twin. They were fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, but they were two months early. The boy died 2 hours and 19 minutes later, the girl lived 30 hours.

The clerk handed me the first birth certificate:

And then the second:

I have to admit, I got goosebumps. Not because they’d named her Laura, but because her middle name was Ann. It’s as if Ann Richards, my 2nd great grand aunt lead me to this information. That she was saying to me, “It’s OK…I had a great life with my sister’s name…I wore it well and made it my own.” 

I hope I can do the same for my sister. And who knows, maybe she'll be the one that leads me to the next great thing in my family history.

So, do you have someone in your family that has the name of someone who died before them? What about the naming conventions in your family; anything unusual? I'd love to have your comments...


  1. Interesting as one of my family names is my middle name, Ann. I was given that name after my mother's great aunt whom she lived with for several years as a young girl.

    We have quite a few that were used for several generations as either a first or middle name.

  2. Laura,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/11/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-november-1.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Debi, thanks for taking the time to read and comment! As I mentioned, seeing it all the time in research is so different when you find out it's happened to you...was a bit surreal. And, Jana, as always, thank you for your generosity in adding me to the wonderful group of blogs on your Friday Finds!!

  4. I had the same confusion when I first started researching. We have a naming pattern in Scotland which is common but by no means watertight, especially as so many children did not survive and their names were reused. First son named after father's father, second son after mother's father, first daughter after mother's mother, second daughter after father's mother. It's also very common for a grandmother's maiden name to be used as a middle name for a child (whether male or female). Hope you get more guides from the past - I've had a few spooky experiences over the years... :-)

  5. This is a beautiful article illustrating repetition of names in families.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog!