AKA William Wilbur

William W. Reid, c1898

I have spent a lot of time working with lineage applications. I have successfully completed quite a few for myself and for others. I was chair of the Ohio Genealogical Society’s First Families of Ohio for 5 years and during that time I reviewed nearly 100 applications each year. I am the Registrar for the Lima Chapter NSDAR and have successfully completed DAR applications for a number of their members. I have even given lectures about preparing a lineage application. Yes, I have had a lot of practice in this area of genealogy.

Lineage applications often require a higher standard of proof than the average family research project. For a lineage application you have to show proof of every name, date, and place that you write on the application and you have to prove that each generation is linked to the next. I have always felt that you will quickly discover what areas you still need to research and prove when you prepare a lineage application.

A couple years ago, when I submitted a supplemental application to Settlers and Builders of Ohio, I was a little surprised when the SBO chair asked me for proof of my gr-great-grandfather William Reid’s middle name. The family historians in our family had always referred him as William Wilbur Reid and, without double checking all of my proof documents, that was the name I wrote on the application. I looked through my proof documents again and discovered that I could find no real proof that his middle name was Wilbur. The documents I have only give his name as William Reid. His tombstone is inscribed with William W. Reid, but the W. could stand for any number of names beginning with the letter W. His middle name probably is Wilbur, but without solid proof, I cannot say for certain that it is.

The same holds true with my grandmother Gertrude’s middle name. Family tradition says her middle name was Emma, but I have no documents that actually show the name Emma. She has no known birth record. Her marriage record, her church records, and other records simply have her listed as Gertrude Brewster. Deed records and her obituary give E as her middle initial. There are other middle names in my family tree that are questionable as well: Philip H. Brewster is known for sure, tradition says the H stands for Henry; Pearl Reid is on the documents, tradition says Pearl Salina Reid. Then there are those that never claimed to have a middle name: Daniel Brewster, Jackson Brewster, and others.

I have no problem indentifying the middle names of the German ancestors in my family. For centuries the Germans gave their children at least two names at baptism, sometimes christening them with three or four names. The first name was usually a religious name, often a saint’s name, and all the males in the family would have the same first name. The middle name was their secular name, the name by which people called and knew them, and the name they used on legal documents. Johann was a favorite first, or spiritual, name in my German ancestry. That name was Hans in some of the earliest German church records I have looked at. Most of the males in my German families had the first name of Johann. They were baptized as Johann Jacob, Johann Georg, Johann Ludwig, Johann Friedrich, and so on. But they were known as Jacob, Georg, Ludwig, and Friedrich. This naming pattern was the same for the females in the family.

One of the best sources for middle names is church records. They usually record baptisms and the child’s full name was recorded at that event. Children were often given their secular name in honor of a relative or friend who was the child’s sponsor at baptism. Today the trend of giving children family names continues. Females are sometimes given a family surname for a middle name, often a surname from the maternal side.

I still search for that document that may contain the compete name William Wilbur or Gertrude Emma. If any of my relatives come across such a document, please let me know.

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