What's In A Name
by Daryl K. Coleman

First, if you are not really interested in genealogy or family history, you most likely won't even be reading this. So, I can assume you are interested. I have been struck at how many times researchers, most times newbies, will focus in on their own surname and to some degree or another ignore the other surnames in their family. I've given this a good deal of thought, and come to the conclusion that IF you are serious about your family history, you are either ignorant or nuts to ignore or downplay surnames in your family which you do not carry. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

My name is Daryl Coleman. But, my last name is COLEMAN due only to our common naming convention, whereby we commonly claim the last name of our father (which, by the way, I think was a very good idea way back when. We had to find some way of doing this, and this seems to me to have been the very best way to do it. Also, I absolutely hate hyphenated names, like Coleman-Harris, or Jones-Day, or whatever. What does the next generation do? Hyphenate again, to Coleman-Harris-Jones? I know that idea of hyphenated names caught on rather early in the UK, and it is gaining ground here in the US, but I still think it is just plain stupid, to be rather blunt about it). Anyway, my last name could have been one of the other surnames in my family.
Daryl Harris
Daryl Starr
Daryl Curry
Daryl Phillips
Daryl Jones
Daryl Hammond

Daryl Ogletree, and so on.

My point is that, while I AM Coleman, I am also Harris, Starr, Curry, Phillips, Jones, Ogletree, Moore, Henderson, Hammond, Crawley, Cooper, Pyron, Allen, Glymph, Cambron, Murdock, Rodgers, Doss, Peebles, Fry, Morris, Johnson, Clayton, Hester, Moseley, Pinkston, Browning, McDuffy, Quattlebaum, and the list goes on. Now, granted, the further back I have to go to get to that surname, it becomes a bit less likely that I have done much research on that family, usually due simply to lack of information, or lack of time and resources, but CERTAINLY NOT due to lack of interest. So, I recommend that you keep in mind the fact that, when doing family history, you are, namewise, a sum of your past, which includes many more surnames than just your own. Personally, I tend to spend most of my research time on the surnames going back to my GG or GGG Grandparents, and spend little time on those further back, ONLY due to lack of time and resources. There are other researchers, though, who will go much further back in great detail. I say more power to them, if they have the time, resources and memory to do it. I just don't have it in me to go that far, but to each his own.

One other thing to mention here. I have run into this situation more than once. I have a family line with a surname not my own, where another researcher WITH that surname assumes that because he carries that surname, he must be the last word on family research for that family. Just assuming this because of a NAME is pure rubbish! Don't do that, and don't fall for it either.

Daryl Coleman, November 8, 2006

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