Good news!! The newer version of the software I use CAN tell the difference between two people with precisely the same name. The indexing software takes the year of birth into account. So as long as I know at least one of their years of birth, the index will list them separately instead of, for instance, lumping both Earl JOHNSONs into one person who appears on five or six different pages.


In genealogy, women are forever known by their birth names.

Some men also have "birth names"; they may have been adopted by a step-parent or undergone a legal change of name for one reason or another.

Following are the common usages of names and my own inventions of name usage to meet various circumstances.


If a woman's birth name is known and it was not changed through adoption or other means before her marriage, she is listed in the index under her birth name only.

(Example) JONES, Mary Lou

If a woman's birth name is known BUT it was changed by adoption, she is listed under her legal before-marriage name, with her birth name in capital letters given as part of her given name. The same holds true of men whose names were changed by legal means and the original name is known.


WEBER, Kristine Kay GENZEL (adopted by step-father)

TOELSTEAD, Rodney Allan KRUMWIEDE (legal name change without adoption)


One instance appears in our records in which I simply do not know if the child uses its mother's or father's surname, nor do I know if the child's parents are or have been married. That person is listed with no surname.


I frequently discover a woman's given name through newspaper articles or in obituary survivors' lists ("his wife, Susan" or "his daughter-in-law Jane") with no indication of what that woman's birth name would have been. You will find "Susan" and "Jane" listed under the surname of the man whose obituary was reported (we'll call him Mr. BROWN) until such time as other information might provide their own birth surname.

Susan would be listed as: BROWN, Susan (wife of John)

For Jane, a son for Mr. Brown would first be added in this fashion: BROWN, (son of John)

AND this person is assumed to be deceased since he is not listed as a survivor, only his wife.

Then a spouse for son of John, listed as: BROWN, Jane (wife of John's son) - the person listed as a survivor.

Chances are that further inquiries will yield both women's birth names, but the above method serves to identify them in the meantime.


I frequently know a man's surname, but not his given name. This also occurs by way of survivors' lists.

If "Mr. GREEN" has a daughter Ann DOE surviving, chances are Ann is or was married to a man with the surname DOE. Assuming I already knew about Ann's existence, I add a spouse to her, who is listed: DOE, (husband of Ann GREEN)

Some situations lend themselves to real naming messes and this was the best way I could think of to deal with it. In some instances, we have lists that end up looking like this:

DOE, (1st husband of Ann GREEN)

SMITH, (2nd husband of Ann GREEN)

MILLER, (3rd husband of Ann GREEN)

How do I find out these things? If Ann GREEN dies and leaves surviving sons (NOT step-sons, mind you, but sons) with three different surnames, I will make the assumption that she was married three times and had sons by all three husbands, and each of her sons will be listed in the proper marriage list.

If I'm proved incorrect later, the beauty of doing genealogy on a computer is that a few clicks disconnects people from each other, re-connects them to their proper families and changes their birth names.

So if you can't find the name of the person you are looking for, try looking for the parents or the spouse first.


CALL NAMES: Well, if I discover a person's full name in birth records, that is the name by which that person is known in these records, NOT by the "call name." A "call name" is the name a person was "called," whether or not that was the FIRST name in their given name or not.

Can't find Uncle Emil? Well, his name wasn't Emil. He is:

KRUMWIEDE, August Friedrich "Emil."

The quotations around Emil indicate that this is what he was called and that the name he was called is a legal part of his given name.


SPREHE, Frederika Karoline "Minna" (named after her father and her aunt, but called Minna)

KRUMWIEDE, Caroline "Lydia" (Yes, Aunt Lydia's name was actually Caroline).

KRUMWIEDE, Frederika Elisabeth Sophia "Wilhelmina" (Minnie) -- (named after her mother's sister and brother-in-law - Fred and Elisabeth Schoh Sprehe -- and Sophia is a family name also, but not certain to whom it refers.) In addition, Aunt Wilhelmina had a nickname which was used by her brothers and sisters but then fell out of usage as she became older or, more likely, was discontinued in usage because of its similarity to her step-mother's/first cousin's call name ("Minna". It was Minnie, and THAT name appears in parenthesis rather than in quotes.

Again, if you can't find the person, look first for their parents, spouse or child whose name you do know.


Nicknames differ from call names in that they are NOT part of the person's legal name. Nicknames appear in parenthesis. Sometimes, a person's nickname is so similar to their name that it is not given (Louie for Louis, for instance). Most importantly, a nickname does NOT affect where the person is listed in alphabetical order, whereas a call name might. Here are some examples in our files:

SPREHE, Wilbert Frederick August (Jeep)

STRAUSS, Gordon Lee (Peanut)

KRUMWIEDE, Adolph Ferdinand Friedrich (Audy)

Of course, in this case, his son has the same name and nickname as the father - sort of. Although their names are not precisely the same, Adolph Fred is known as Adolph Fred KRUMWIEDE JR and has the nickname Audy. I do not know if "JR" is a legal part of his name or not.

KRUMWIEDE, Peter Heinrich "Ferdinand" (F.P.)

F.P. poses some problems when it comes to naming, but I decided to list him as given above. It could be argued that F.P. is a legal part of his name, but NOT as a name. Those letters refer to Ferdinand (his "call" name) and Peter, his actual first given name. He seems to have ignored the name Heinrich in all but situations which might have required he use his full name. His tombstone says "Ferdinand P."

Again, if you can't find the person, you may find that you know that person only by their nickname, so try looking for their parents or spouse first.