Sunday, September 11, 2022

About Those Irish Nicknames


Finding a mother's maiden name can be challenging in its own right. When coupled with the shifting usage of nicknames, it's a task which makes me wonder whether all those names I'm finding refer to the same woman.

The Murdock brothers Samuel, James, John, and Thomas in Lafayette, Indiana, have been the key to helping me find Eliza Murdock Stevens' mother. In particular, the most successful of the brothers—millionaire James, whose handsome photograph and biographical sketch appeared in Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana—became my source for their mother's maiden name, Kelly.

However, discovering that the woman was recorded by three different given names—Sally, Sibba, and Sabina—I needed to quell any doubts for myself.

This is not the first time I've wrestled with this question. Years ago, I wondered the same thing—and had some motivation to get to the root of the nickname problem. But did I? Let's just say that item got shoved to the bottom of the month's research list.

So I decided to take the situation to a good friend of mine: Google. After all, isn't it still true that "Google is your friend"? I asked for "Irish nicknames" and up came this handy document, a ten page chart compiled by Dennis A. Hogan called "Given Name Alternatives for Irish Research." 

Within those ten pages—and this may come as no surprise to you—the entry for Sabina confirmed that, in addition to "Bina," two other nicknames could be Sally and Sibby. Hence, the Murdock entry in the 1860 census for Sally, and the 1870 census entry for a quite different version, Sibba.

So "Sibba" was likely to have actually been "Sibby." If so, imagine that "Sibby" with a sloppily-written capital "S." Could someone have mistaken that for an "L"? I've seen that happen before.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I'm hoping that a mistaken transcription is the case again, because I found a passenger record which may be of interest to us—if the entry for "Libby" Murdock was really supposed to mean "Sibby" Murdock. We'll see, tomorrow, whether there are any additional documents to bolster or negate that wishful guess.


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