Those darn nicknames

My great great grandmother's death certificate

My GGGM’s death certificate

When you’re looking at names on a census record, or a family tree someone else has  compiled, it’s so easy to get fixated on the person’s formal name. But, in fact, even on formal documents, a nickname might be used. And if you’re using an index, that can make finding that person difficult.

Case in point: I was looking for the death certificate of my maternal grandfather’s mother. I understood her name to be Antoinette Brown. (I haven’t thoroughly researched her…I saw her name on her husband’s death certificate and thought I’d see if I can find hers, since Missouri makes it so easy.)

I figured it was a good guess that she died in the same county in which they lived and in which he died and I searched on “Antoinette Brown,” “Antonia Brown” and “A Brown.” I got nothing. So I searched county wide for all deaths of Browns between 1910 and 1961 (the date range for which images of the death certificates are instantly available as PDFs) and then searched within that page for 1922, the year that, according to an unverified public tree on, she had died. There were two 1922 deaths of Browns in Vernon County and one of them was a “Nettie Brown.” Ah ha! Nettie could be a nickname for Antoinette. So I clicked the image, and sure enough, her husband was listed as N.P. Brown. My great great grandfather was Newton Perry Brown. Furthermore, her parents’ names matched with the unsourced but reliable information my grandfather had received from a cousin, so I’m confident this is her.

Family Tree Magazine has a great list of nicknames for common female names. So if you’re having trouble finding a female ancestor, that link might help you find some nicknames to search for.It’s a terrific resource!