Saturday, April 4, 2009

Name Game—The Gals

Last week I had an e-mail from someone who was questioning one of my posts on findagrave. She felt that I had the first name incorrect. I had listed it as Sarah and she told me that the first name on the death certificate was Sally. She continued by telling me that a relation of hers had done research on the family and that there were two sisters in the family, one named Sarah and one named Sally.

I am also related to the family in question and have done my own research and also have work done by a family member, a history professor, who spent time in courthouses, pouring over documents and records from the mid to late 1800’s, and he listed the woman’s name a Sarah.

I went back and looked at the census reports from 1850-1930. When the woman was a girl and living with her parents, she was listed as Sarah. As an older adult, from 1900-1930, Sarah lived with her brother and then with another relations and she is enumerated as Sallie. The death certificate lists Sally. The birth year is the same for both which leads me to believe that Sarah and Sally are the same person.

As I explained to the woman who e-mailed me, Sally is a common nickname for Sarah. My own grandmother was named Sarah and was called Sally and Sal by my grandfather.

Often, when I see older census reports, parents do not use the proper name, but a nickname. Like most folks doing genealogy, we want to enter the proper name into our database, but might not know how to translate the nickname to the proper name.

Back when I first began working on my roots, I found an excellent resource book by Emily Ann Croom1 for sale at the genealogical library where I was working. There is a good chapter on names and I am going to copy some of them here in case there are other researchers out there that might like to know how to translate nickname to proper name. I'm certain there are probably more than what is listed below--but it's a beginning!
Mamie, Molly, Mollie, May, Masie, Polly, Minnie, Moll

Maggie, Peg, Peggy, Meg, Midge, Madge, Daisy, Maisie, Meta, Greta

Marty, Martie, Mattie, Patty, Patsy

Beth, Eliza, Liz, Lisa, Lizzie, Lisa, Lise, Elsie, Betty, Betsy, Bitsy, Bess, Bessie, Libby

Ella, Ellie, Nell, Nellie, Nelly, Nora

Sarah--Sallie, Sal, Sadie

Frances--Fran, Frankie, Fannie

Annie, Nan, Nannie, Nina, Nancy

Kathy, Kate, Katie, Kat, Katy, Kay, Kitty, Kit

Susan—Sukie, Suchy

Tillie—Matilda, Mathilda

Euphemia—Effie, Effy


Millie—Amelia, Mildred, Millicent


Hettie—Esther, Henrietta, Hester

Ollie—Olive, Olivia


Hallie—Henrietta, Harriet

Patty--Patricia, Patience, Martha, Matilda

Lena, Lena
Eveline, Emeline, Carolina, Angelia, Selina, Selena, Helena, Paulina, Magdelena

Bell(e)--Arabella, Anabelle,Isabel, Rosabel

Nora--Honora, Honoria, Leonara, Eleanor

Dora--Theodora, Eudora, Dorothy

Nell--Ellen, Helen, Eleanor

Delia--Cordelia, Adelia, Ledelia, Adele

Jane, Virginia, Janet, Jennette, Jennifer

Allie--Alice, Aline, Alene, Aletha

Cindy--Lucinda, Cynthia


1. Emily Ann Croom, Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy, Second Edition, Betterway Publications Inc., White Hall, Virginia, 1989, page 23-27.


  1. Name variations definitely provide a lot of fun. In my parents' families, it seems the majority of people went by their middle names or totally unrelated nicknames. There's also Disa/Dicey, which may be from (E)liza (Elizabeth).

  2. Yes, yes , yes. The nickname for Sarah is Sally.

    Also Linda/lin/Hughesie

  3. My Gram was Lillian Elizabeth Balfour and only one family in N.B.Ca. had a Elza in 1881 census. Last week I recheck the 1891 census and the same family had the girl as Lilly. I just may have found them, just her age is 2 yrs off.
    Your comments on names gives me a little hope!