Snowflakes are unique yet each one goes by the same name.  Each of our ancestors and their stories, in his/her own time, place and location are unique. Sameness situations occur in most everyone’s family and they can be fascinating and even yield clues about family history or traditions.  As with all of our genealogy research, we must consistently exercise care to retain or restore a person’s identity.

1029020“1029020” by Biblioteca Rector Machado y Nuñez is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

One area we find the unique ‘snowflakes’ as we research is place names. In the US there are seven states with a county name the same as its state name. There are four of those locations whose city and county names are the same as their state’s name.1 In my family there are four maternal and three paternal generations who have resided in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma. Too often an event is listing only with a partial place name leading to unnecessary confusion especially when the location has the same name in the same or different county or state.  There are many resources to help locate the full place name and one is the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database of geographic features in the United States and its territories.2

Misidentification can also occur when a person’s given name is the name of a state, such as Georgia or Virginia.  This sameness, due to the double meaning (e.g. Virginia living in Virginia), makes searching more challenging since that search yields lots of results that meet the criteria but may have nothing to do with the information being sought. Compounding this research challenge is the popularity of a given name during certain time periods.  For example, my maternal grandmother Virginia was born in 1914 in what is now Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma and the year she was born her name was the 14th most popular girl name in the US.3  Virginia’s father was born in Virginia and that may have been a reason for choosing her name and later, after her parents’ premature deaths, she spent several of her formative years in Virginia.

Like snowflakes, same given names represent a specific, unique and beautiful individual and we want and must take care to retain their unique identity.

My grandmother, Virginia (Lineberry) Willis Billings (1914 – 2007).

  1. There are seven where the county is the same as the state (Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, New York, Oklahoma, Utah); four also have a populated place name, hereinafter referred as city, (Arkansas, Idaho, New York, Oklahoma).
  2. United States Geological Survey (USGS), “GNIS Feature Search”, (https://geonames.usgs.gov/apex/f?p=138:1:15497337259196 : accessed February 10 2020).
  3. Social Security Administration, “Popular Baby Names”, (https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/ : accessed February 7, 2020), entry for female name Virginia; source of data is Social Security applications for births after 1879-March 2019 in the US.

Amy Johnson Crow offers weekly prompts to get us thinking about an ancestor and to share something about that person. She calls it 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week 5: What ancestor migrated a long distance in his or her lifetime? Maybe you found an ancestor far from where you expected? How about a discovery in a distant library or archive?

Each of my posts using one of her prompts will have the tag of “52Ancestors” and I’ll share them on the thread she’s started for that week in her Generations Cafe Facebook Group.