July 16th, 2012

Data Collection During a One Name Study

Data collection is both the most tiresome part of a one name study, and the most important. You’ll need to amass as much information as you can find regarding your surname and keep an accurate record of its sources. You will use many of the same resources as you would for a family tree project, albeit you will apply it in different ways. The same principles apply; you are encouraged to verify any information before publishing it in your study, although because of the vastness of such a project that is not always possible. You may have to rely on secondary sources published by other researchers, but try as best you can to verify any original data that you can.

The best part of a one name study is that it can take you to places you wouldn’t otherwise go, by nature it is divergent, and one piece of information may open up a completely new area of research for you. As the study is global, the potential for the scope of your project is huge. In order to capture the extent of your study, you will want to explore as much indexed information as you can. Traditional sources such as BDM indexes and Census reports will play a role in your study, as will maps, but you may also find yourself consulting calendars, resumes, and obscure directories not otherwise employed in a genealogical search.

One benefit of a one name study is that there are no real dead-ends. In a traditional ancestor hunt, the trail goes cold when you can’t connect to the next generation, but a one name study follows the continued presence of a name regardless if references can’t be assembled into family groups.

Various Data Sources for a One Name Study

A one name study involves collecting a vast amount of data from a worldwide perspective, and thus various sources will need to be consulted. The major sources for collecting one name study data are:

  • Historical Sources – Maps, Biographies, Family Histories
  • Civil Registration Indexes (Births, Deaths and Marriages)
  • County Records
  • Census Records
  • Monumental and Tombstone Inscriptions

These records represent the core data you’ll initially consult in a one name study, and citing such sources within your study will give it credibility in the genealogical world. Almost every kind of genealogical source is relevant to a one name study however, and the following types of record will also prove useful:

  • Educational Data – school and university records and degree lists
  • Occupational Data – apprentice records, trade and professional directories, manorial records, pension lists, military records, trade union records
  • Place Data – Electoral rolls, street directories, property records, tithe records, telephone directories
  • Tax Records – Land tax, death duty records
  • Heraldic Records – Coats of Arms etc.
  • Photographs
  • Criminal and Court Records
  • Pedigrees

Some of these records you may be already familiar with, and initially you might want to concentrate your efforts on them. Births, Deaths and Marriages records are of particular interest to a one name study, as are baptismal records and census reports. A one stop shop from which you can begin your data collection is the International Genealogical Index.

The International Genealogical Index

The International Genealogical Index (IGF) is one of the world’s foremost collections of genealogical records in existence. Names contained in the collection date from as far back as 1500, and are sourced from original records from around the world. The data is contributed by individuals and volunteers who both submit their own material and extract data from international vital records. The collection was originally started by the LDS (Latter Day Saints or Mormons), and has grown to contain billions of individual records.

The most reliable records found in the IGF are those extracted by the LDS, and they are marked as such. Those supplied by individuals should be treated with caution and their data checked against original sources where possible. Both types of source are given a batch number which can be used to identify they type of record and the name of the location it covers. The batch numbers point to an LDS microfilm number which will contain all of the records of that surname extracted for that particular collection of records.

You can access the International Genealogical Index at FamilySearch.org. You can use the IGI to search marriage and baptism registers etc for entries of your surname, and you can narrow down your search to country, county, parish, and town or village.

Recording Your Data

Naturally, after working so hard to recover all of the information you will find regarding your surname, you will want to ensure that you have an efficient, easy to access system of recording and storing that data. It is also important o record very specific criteria, such as:

  • The source of the data
  • Location of the source
  • The date that you found the information
  • What records you searched

If you are researching at a library or Family History Center, take your laptop or hand held wit you, many establishments allow the use of them, and it is an efficient, convenient way to keep and take your records wit you. At some places you may be able to photograph documents that you find, so make sure you have either a camera or mobile phone with picture taking capabilities, though if using a mobile phone please ensure that you have your ring tone set to silent mode.