Naming Patterns–Aliases

Research challenges include the ability to recognize your ancestor when you encounter him in the records. Aliases and alternative names may be used by the record clerk–forms you are not familiar with. Let me introduce you to a couple of articles written a while back that will give you some insight into early naming practices. So your eye  will not glide right over your ancestor without stopping.

Francis Leeson, “Aliases,” Genealogists Magazine 15 (1968): 594-99.

“Alternative Surnames,” National Index of Parish Registers I (1968): 92-96.

Leeson solicited examples of aliases and their uses in past issues of the Genealogists Magazine and garnered this information to share with readers:

  1. Female Aliases–legal naming patterns used to identify married women in records. The term used more recently is nee before the maiden surname.
    Buried: Treleven alias Sanders, Judith of Stratton.
    Judith Jordan (or Call) married 1) John Sanders of Stratton and 2) Sylvester Treleaven.
  2. Step or Adoptive Aliases–A child whose father died early may link his step-father’s name to his surname with alias to make his identity clear. Example supplied by Donald Lines Jacobus, The American Genealogist X, p. 1.
  3. Illegitimacy Aliases–examples of the child using his father’s name in life with his mother’s name as an alias, but at burial he is buried with his mother’s name and the alias is his father’s name. Or any combination of the two names throughout his life.
  4. Distinguishing Aliases–nicknames and alternative surnames could be used to identify persons with common names like “John Jones, seaman otherwise Black and Blue.” Or Courtney alias Selly for the baptisms of children in an area where Courtney was a common name.
  5. Status Aliases–Names assumed when marrying into a well-known or powerful family, or one with noble status. Thomas Writh who became Sir Thomas Wriothesley in the reign of King John. Such names may indicate an inheritance through a more important family.
  6. Disguising Aliases–used by Catholic students studying abroad during penal times. The printed volumes of the Catholic Record Society include many such instances. These aliases are perpetuated when fugitive priests come into England. Example: Robert Rookwood alias Rawley. [Actually, Catholic families were allowed to assume the alias of the nearest related Protestant family that would inherit in the normal course of events. Since Justice is blind, the Protestant name protected the Catholic members of the family from confiscation of property, prison, and even death. Example: “alias Blackett” put identity with the Protestant part of the family–Blackett AE]

Many other examples are given in the articles without assigning an origin or  reason.

Records extracted for the International Genealogical Index (IGI) retained the alias in the Index so you can follow the families more easily. The IGI is available on under Genealogies.

Your favorite British genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Today we have a new baby boy in our family–Ryker Russon,  6 lbs 13 oz born 31 January 2017 in Logan Utah to Colton and Harley Russon. Congratulations!

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