Nicknames: Family history research tips

Nicknames: Family history research tips

Ever faced an obstacle in your family research as you look for an ancestors’ name?

When viewing census records, for example, it’s not uncommon to find a relative listed with their formal birth name in one record, and then listed under a nickname in another.

Nicknames are usually familiar or humorous and used as an appropriate replacement or addition to a given name. They can be a form of endearment, refer to a personal character trait or just be a shortened version.

When you stumble upon these new listings, you might think your family research has hit a brick wall. Searching for records can be difficult if you don’t have all the information, but don’t despair, here are some tips below to help in your family history research.

  • Search for the surname first to yield relevant results. Sometimes the first name is listed as the surname.
  • Search for other family members in the census – such as a parent or sibling – to find the nickname or birth name of a relative.
  • Check for middle names that may be the given name.
  • Search by initials or shortened versions. For example, for Alexander,check Al or Alex.
  • Sometimes names may sound alike such as Aaron and Erin or Sheryl and Cheryl. Try alternate name spellings with the surname.

Nicknames come in various forms. Here are some common types:

  • Hereditary surname: Armstrong or Smallman
  • Title referring to an occupation or social standing: Doc, Sarge, Genius
  • Physical characteristics or personality: Slim, Sherlock, Chatterbox
  • Middle portion of name: Liz (Elizabeth) or Greta (Margaret)
  • Letter swapping:  Bill (William), Bob or Rob (Robert) or Sadie (from Sarah).
  • First part of name: Chris (Christopher/Christina), Ed (Edward/Edmund), and Jo/e (Joseph/Joanna).
  • End of name: Beth (Elizabeth) and Drew (Andrew)
  • Adding ie/ee/y as an ending: Dave (David), Charlie (Charles), Danny/Dani (Daniel/Danielle) and Jimmy (James)

Are there nicknames in your family? Have you discovered additional names for ancestors in your family tree?

Let us know in the comments below!


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    November 24, 2013

    Edwards nick name c1890 was ned! yes Ned

  • Clarrie Hayne

    November 25, 2013

    Have discovered the name Ann and Nancy being the same person, Ann being correct. Very confusing.

  • P. Gull

    November 25, 2013

    My dad’s nickname when serving in WW2 and continued afterward was “Chick” Gage. He died in 1962 so I didn’t get the time to know him well but my memories are deep.

  • Jen

    November 26, 2013

    My Mom’s Aunt’s nickname was Bernice (Bunnie, Bunny) when she was growing up.

  • Trisher-Pattee Jones

    November 27, 2013

    My Grandmother grabbed me by my sleeve when I was 6 & told me her father called her “Molly”,looked 2 years for her family, found one record using “Molly”, which was her family in Gilbert Hollow, SC, my family was in AL. Bless nicknames.

  • Lani Pettit

    November 30, 2013

    Horace, 1800’s nickname was Hod. Abdellah nickname was Dell. Then 1G Grandpa was Abdellah Merritt Stearns and he later switched it to M.A. Stearns. Lots of my more recent family go by their middle names.

  • Alice Holt

    December 1, 2013

    Could Barney be a nickname for Alexander in the 1940’s?

  • Ann Hood

    December 2, 2013

    Charlotte known as Lottie in the past but now often Charlie

  • Mavis zackeresen

    December 18, 2013

    One of my Aunts was known as Girlie whose actual name was Charlotte. She came to visit only once and she asked me if I knew who she was and I said yes, Girlie. She pulled me up quick smart saying , NO, I am Auntie Charlotte. A memory never forgotten.

  • Mary Rendell

    August 16, 2014

    Rhoda Hall
    August 16th 2014

    My mother’s name was Muriel Agnes. She was unable to say Muriel as a child and was teased. One day her brother Allen found her crying on the back steps of their home. ‘What’s the matter, Lady Betty?’ he asked. Betty became her nickname to the day she died.

  • Cfrthdsfghtefggff

    March 28, 2020



    Victor-Vito (Italian)


    Carolina/Caroline-Carrie, Lina, Carol, Callie

    Amelia-Mealie, Meal, Melia

    Louise- Lou, Wheez, Wheezy, Louie, Lois, Louisa, Elle, Lulu, Lucy, Luelle/Luella, Lottie, Louisey, Isey, Lee, Lua, Lola

    Wilhelmina-Mina, Minnie, Winnie, Helma, Helmie, Helmina, Will, Willie

    Elizabeth-Liz, Lizzie, Beth, Bess, Bessie, Betty, Betsey, Libby, Lib, Liza, Eliza, Elle, Bethy,

    Bertha-Berth, Berta, Berty/Bertie/Birdie, Bert

    Margaret- Marg (Muh-argh), Marga, Reta, Rita, Peggy, Maggie, Marge, Margie, Mae/May, Molly/Mollie, Peg, Pegsey, MarMar, Maisie, Greta

    Helen-Ellen, Nel, Nellie, Hel, Hellie, Len,

    Friederika- Freda/Frieda, Rika, Rike, Derika, Freedy (Free-dee), Freddie, Ika, Fritzi, Ricka, Rick, Ricky

    Heinrich: Henry, Rich, Rick, Heinz, Hal, Hank, Harry, Hen, Hein, Ricky, Richy

    Michael- Mike, Mikey, Micha, Kull, Kully, Mick, Mickey, Mitch, Mitchy

    Regina-Gina, Jeana, Reg, Reggie, Jean, Jeannie/Jeanie, Ina

    Barbara- Barb, Babs, Barba, Barbie, Babsy

    Catherine/Catherina- Rina, Rin, Cathy/Kathy, Cait/Kate/Kait/Cate, Katie/Catie/Katee/Kaity/Caity, Kay/Kaye/K, Cass, Cassie, Cat/Kat, Kit, Kitty