Peterson, Pettersen, or Pedersen? Different branches of my father’s family have chosen to spell our last name in a variety of ways. Over the years, the spelling of your surname or your ancestor’s surname may have changed too. Sometimes this happens when a family immigrates to a new country and changes their name so it’s easier to spell or pronounce. For others, names have been recorded phonetically—which can mean the name is spelled differently on every record. Regardless of the reason, you’ll want to search for (and make note of) your family members under all necessary variations.
Family Tree Maker lets you record surnames in a variety of ways. I haven’t decided if one way is better than another. For me the key is to be consistent.
My great-grandfather’s name was Michael John Reed, but he was known as MJ Reed in life and in records. I have recorded Michael John Reed, the name he was given at birth, as his preferred name (the name entered in the Name fact). I have also entered MJ Reed as an alternate name in the Also Known As fact. (To enter a name in the Also Known As fact, go to the Person tab for the individual. Right-click the Individual & Shared Facts workspace and choose “Add Fact.” Choose “Also Known As” from the list.)
But what do you do if someone in your family decides to change their own name? When my grandfather and his family emigrated from Denmark, they chose to go by Peterson. However, when my grandfather returned to Denmark years later, he discovered that his surname was originally spelled Pedersen. When he returned to America, he decided to switch his name to the “original.” To record this change in Family Tree Maker, I created a custom fact named “Name Change.” Then I entered the date and the reason why my grandfather started using a different surname. (For more on custom facts, check back in two weeks for my next blog posting.)
So how do you enter surname changes? Do you have multiple Name facts? Do you use the Also Known As fact? Please share the solutions that have worked for you.