What’s in a Name: Nicknames and genealogy


How often have you found a letter or reference to a family member with a name you don’t recognize?

We often call loved ones with variants of their names, commonly known as “nicknames’.” There are certain names usually shortened (James – Jim, Sally – Sal) but often, especially within families and groups of friends, nicknames are terms of endearment (hopefully!).

Have you come across a nickname in your family history research? What should you do and how should you record it?

The first step is to recognize that names change across cultures and countries. For example, Peter in Spanish could be Pedro or Pere in Catalan. There are also variants, like Pete.

Try and perform a bit of detective work and see if other information in the document matches (addresses, dates of birth, context).

Use your family network – ask living relatives to help confirm or deny the name of that person.

Some nicknames are based on physical features and you might have old photos that could help.

The essential thing is not to let it deter you. Nicknames are a part of social life. Most people have one or know someone that has one. Recording nicknames in your family tree is a good way of preserving it for your family. On the MyHeritage family site you can add nicknames to all family members on their profile page.

MyHeritage profile page lets you add nicknames for family members
What nicknames have you discovered in your family history research?

Leave a comment

The email address is kept private and will not be shown

  • Victor

    March 14, 2012

    That’s good !!! …

  • hamilton

    March 14, 2012

    i don`t know this name

  • Harley Cassan

    March 14, 2012

    In Chievolis, Italy and area, so many family members exist that many of the families have been given nicknames. In regards to the Cassan Family there are Cassan (Gain1) (Cassan (Gain2) Cassan (della Petossa) Cassan (Sbris) Cassan (Bidol) – This is not all of the names given but most. The families Mongiat and Cartelli who come from this same area also have many nicknames

  • “Geoff”

    March 15, 2012

    Why only on the profile?
    I will continue to enter these manually as part of the name because I need it in the tree itself.
    I need it to identify and distinguish people of the same name.
    I can work for weeks in the family tree without ever looking at the profile of a person.

  • Angie

    March 22, 2012

    None of my family used their ‘real’ names!