Naming Conventions

One of the canards of genealogy is that professional genealogists always prefer the earliest recorded name. The idea is that name is the most authentic.

More or less true, but not quite, not always.

William Shakespeare, for example. You think you know his name? His baptismal record, the earliest in a scant collection, calls him Gulielmus — Latin for William.

Wait! Do I have to change my database so that my tenuous connection to England’s most famous playwright shows him as Gulielmus Shakespeare?

No, what’s happening here is a very basic confusion. Prosopographers already know there is a difference between having a database identifier, which can be a name, and recording all the name variations a person used in their lifetime.

In short, genealogists haven’t kept up with best academic practices. Many are still mired in the amateur practices of the 18th and 19th centuries. Time to catch up.

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