Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rules for Our Ancestors - or - How to Confuse Your Descendants

  1. Thou shalt name your male children: James, John, Joseph, Josiah, Abel, Richard, Thomas, William.  
  2. Thou shalt name your female children: Elizabeth, Mary, Martha, Maria, Sarah, Ida, Virginia, May. 
  3. Thou shalt leave NO trace of your female children. 
  4. Thou shalt, after naming your children from the above lists, call them by strange nicknames such as: Ike, Eli, Polly, Dolly, Sukey, making them difficult to trace. 
  5. Thou shalt NOT use any middle names on any legal documents or census reports, and only where necessary, you may use only initials on legal documents. 
  6. Thou shalt learn to sign all documents illegibly so that your surname can be spelled, or misspelled, in various ways: Hicks, Hickes, Hix, Hixe, Hucks, Kicks. 
  7. Thou shalt, after no more then 3 generations, make sure that all family records are lost, misplaced, burned in a court house fire, or buried so that NO future trace of them can be found.
  8. Thou shalt propagate misleading legends, rumors, & vague innuendo regarding your place origination. 
    a. You may have come from: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales....or Iran.
    b. You may have American Indian ancestry of the______tribe......
    c. You may have descended from one of 3 brothers that came over from______.
  9. Thou shalt leave NO cemetery records or headstones with legible names. 
  10. Thou shalt leave NO family Bible with records of birth, marriages, or deaths. 
  11. Thou shalt ALWAYS flip thy name around. If born James Albert, thou must make all the rest of thy records in the names of Albert, AJ, JA, AL, Bert, Bart, or Alfred. 
  12. Thou must also flip thy parents' names when making reference to them, although "Unknown" or a blank line is an acceptable alternative. 
  13. Thou shalt name at least 5 generations of males, and dozens of their cousins, with identical names in order to totally confuse researchers.
Note: Several of my ancestors may possibly have collaborated on these rules and enforced them among many others of my ancestors. Gotta love those ancestors! .


  1. My ancestors were very obedient and therefore followed all of these rules.

  2. Nancy, I just wanted to let you know that your post is listed on today's Fab Finds post at

  3. Ohmygoodness - this is incredibly funny! I had to read it out to my adult un-genealogical son, and he laughed out loud too! Yup, my ancestors were as obedient as yours (but we had more Wm, Jas, FW, for the guys, and Sarah, Hanna or was it Anna or Anne, for the girls).

  4. Love it! 'No trace of female children' is my favourite.

  5. My ancestors must have had tattoos of the rules in very prominent places to keep them ever mindful of them.

    This is great.


  6. This is soooo MY family! I've never thought of my ancestors as fitting the norm but apparently there are more of us out there with the same problem than I would have thought. Thanks for the good laugh.

  7. Plenty in there to identify with! They do lead us a chase.

  8. ROFL, absolutely TRUE, I think I've found these same "Thou Shalt"s occurring repeatedly in some of my family lines! Especially those from Germany or Scandinavian countries! Gotta love the naming systems of the past, great-uncle what's-his-name that fought a bear & killed it with a knife by cutting out it's tongue (thus the scar) only later to see it also written of him that he liked to tell entertaining stories to the children, um yep. I think I can relate to just about every single item on your list!


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