Name Dictionaries in The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library

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by Elaine M. Kuhn


What genealogist hasn’t at one time or another asked the questions, “What part of the world did my name come from? What is the meaning of my name?” The Historical Genealogy Department owns a wide variety of given (first) name and surname (last name) dictionaries to assist researchers in understanding the origins of their names.

A great starting point for researching surnames is the “Dictionary of American Family Names” (929.4 Sm5da) by Patrick Hanks. This three-volume set details the origin of some 70,000 names found in the United States. Try also the “Encyclopedia of American Family Names” (929.4 R53e). For a sampling of names from earlier times, take a look at books such as “Middle English Surnames of Occupation 1100-1350” (929.4 F85m) and “Scottish Surnames of Colonial America” (929.4 D656sc). Surname dictionaries for particular nationalities and ethnic groups range from “Chinese American Names” (929.4 L929c) and “Japanese Names and How to Read Them” (929.4 K84j) to “Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames” (929.102 J55MzL) and “Noms de Famille Normands” (929.4 M72n).

Patrick Hanks also co-edited with Flavia Hodges a very useful given name publication titled “Dictionary of First Names” (929.4 H19df). Other helpful books include “Baptismal Names,”4th ed. (929.4 W42), “Dictionary of Given Names” (929.4 L92d) and “Names and Name-Days” (929.4 At88n). Given name dictionaries of certain nationalities and ethnicities include “Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names” (929.4 B393da), “Irish Names” (929.4 Oc5i), “Handbook of African Names” (929.4 M25h), and “First Names of the Polish Commonwealth” (929.4 H675f). Researchers will also find dictionaries of nicknames to peruse such as “Nicknames Past and Present,” 4th ed. (929.4 R698nb) and “Pseudonyms and Nicknames Dictionary,” 3rd ed. (929.4 P949).

Another avenue for name researching is the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), a part of HeritageQuest Online and accessible to researchers in the Historical Genealogy Department (Note: You must be using one of the Allen County Public Library’s computers to access the library’s subscription to HeritageQuest Online. Otherwise, check with your local library to see about access in your area). From the library’s home page select “E-Resources”. Scroll down the alphabetical list until you see and then select “HeritageQuest Online”. After clicking on “Search PERSI” from the HeritageQuest Online home page, select the “How-To’s” section of the database. Enter the term “name*” or “surname*” in the keyword box to get a feel for the many name-related articles one will find in historical and genealogical periodicals available in the Department. Among the periodicals covered by PERSI is the quarterly publication from the American Name Society titled “Names” (how fitting, right?). Bound volumes of “Names” can be found at 929.4 Am25n.

To do your own searching in the library’s catalog for name dictionaries, go to the library’s home page at http://www.ACPL.Info and click on “Search Catalog”. Once the search screen comes up, enter the terms “names personal” for a very broad search, or to limit your search use terms such as “names personal Jewish”, “names personal Italian” or “names personal Lancashire”.

Article taken from the Genealogy Gems[1]: News from the Fort Wayne Library
No. 28, June 30, 2006