I was initially going to start off this month of August to discuss my Lanier family line. I'm still doing research on that line and will have a posting next week with the initial results. However, while meeting with my genealogy group online we became involved in a discussion briefly about family names and how this can be a useful tool in connecting seemingly unrelated families and relatives.
I'd like to share an example from my own research to illustrate how this worked for me.
My example is the connection of my great-great-great grandmother Milly McFarland b. 1837 Mexico, m. Peter McFarland and her siblings, Thomas and Ned (Edward). First, I found her daughter Roxie Earls living with her husband and four (4) daughters Kate, Milly, Lucy and Mary in the 1880 census. Once I located, Roxie and her parents on the Mississippi 1870 census, I began to look around at the neighbors and noticed that she lived near some other blacks born in Mexico with the surname Henyard. Because their marriage was before 1866, I was unable to locate a maiden name through available online records. One of my family's tradition is to name children after a close relative. I drew upon this information to make a determination on if Millie was related to the Henyards. I located several girls named Milly who were descendants of Thomas, Ned and Milly. They are Milly Earls (granddaughter of Milly McFarland), Milly Henyard (daughter of Thomas), Milly McFarland (granddaughter of Milly McFarland). Milly McFarland named a son Thomas, presumably after her brother, Thomas Henyard. I used this method as one way to establish their family relationship.
Another technique that I used was to research my unique family names and do an online search for their origins or homonyms. This is relatively easy to do because of the abundance of Baby Name web sites on the internet. I was able to find African origins for all of the names I researched. Alfy (pronounced by family as Afi), origins in Asante feminine for "Born on Friday". Lela (pronounced Lee-Lah) Kiswahili meaning (Black/swarthy Beauty), also variation on Laila in Arabic with the same meaning. Candy (anglicized version of the name Kehinde), is the mascaline form of Yoruba for second born twin. Candy is a family name for a line of males in my maternal family, was previously spelled Kendy.
This is one of my most used techinques and has helped me quite a bit in my research.