July 23rd, 2012

Analysing the Data of Your One Name Study

Constructing a family tree is the basic goal of analysing genealogical data – using vital records, census reports, and other documentation to compile individuals into a family. A one name study will include other analysis such as geographical patterns of names, spelling variations, and uncovering the connections between migration patterns and spelling variations, which can be very involving, but extremely interesting. Analysing the different forms of data you encounter will enable you to distinguish between genuine spelling variations, and those which are simply misspellings or “deviants”.

Distribution analysis is also very important in a one name study. Calculating the rate that a particular name occurs in various places over the course of time is its foundation, and can be crucial in determining the origin of a surname. It is also critical to identify the full names of any spouses you encounter during your research, as often only a first name might be given in a census report. You may have to dig deep to find that missing information, but that is what makes genealogy a challenge, and such a rewarding endeavour when that data is found.

Accurate and thorough analysis of the data you discover will help you to conclude:

  • The meaning of your surname
  • Its origin
  • Identify variants and where they originated
  • Migration patterns of your surname

These are just the basic things you can learn about your surname through a one name study. Depending on how far you want to take it, or how deep you want to go in your research, you can also find out things such as:

  • Social Conditions your family members may have experienced
  • Their average longevity
  • Number of births and pregnancies
  • Extended families
  • Distances between place born and place married

This type of research will lead you to be a bit of a social scientist in addition to being a genealogist. The most adept one name study experts never completely “finish” researching their surname. There is such depth to a one name study and so much information relevant to surnames that can be discovered, it can really turn into a life long journey, especially if you consider the DNA aspect.

DNA and Its Place in a One Name Study

DNA analysis is being used more and more to connect family groups and to establish connections between spelling variations of surnames. There are several ongoing projects dedicated to such analysis, a full alphabetical listing can be found at Cindi’s List. The benefit of a DNA project is that it can establish family connections when the paper trail goes cold, or dies completely. Direct male descendants from other family trees for your surname can be tested, and if their patterns match, you have established the DNA pattern for the originator of that family line. Of course, the more members that are tested and the more matches that are returned, the greater the connection established and the easier it is to reveal a common ancestor.

Distribution Analysis and Finding Your Ancestors Using Maps

The study and analysis of a surname’s geographical distribution over time is a main component of a one name study, and maps naturally are an invaluable tool in doing so. They can be used to:

  • Locate Ancestors in conjunction with gazetteers
  • Assist in research and data collection
  • Present your findings in publications or reports
  • Analyze the geographical distribution of surnames
  • Study migration patterns

Historical maps must be used in conjunction with modern or contemporary maps, as many boundary changes will have occurred over the years. Gazetteers and Trade Directories may also be especially helpful in locating ancestors, as understanding place names and how they may have changed or originated over the years is crucial to locating your ancestor.

If you are serious about your one name study you might wish to consider using a mapping program. These are programs that allow you to enter your data to create a distribution map specific to your research, or to enter your surname to produce existing distribution maps regarding it. There are downloadable shareware programs available at AgisMap.com or you can purchase a software package from GenMap UK which includes a built in gazetteer to ease the importation of data. Another option from Legacy.com is the Map My Family Tree software. This software analyzes your ancestry files and automatically plots the life events of your ancestors on a customizable color map, allowing you to see at a glance where your relatives were born, got married, and died.