Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Family Genealogy Search Begins with a Name

Everything has a starting point. Your Mexico family genealogy search starts with the name of the person you want to find. The other vital piece of information you must have is the state in Mexico where this person lives or lived. These are the two building blocks of information from which to start your search. So let's look at the structure of the name.

Recently Chantelle posted on Facebook asking for help to find her son's biological grandparents in Mexico. She wrote that she only had the city and the one apellido. If you are unfamiliar with Spanish, apellido is the term for last name, commonly referred to as a surname in genealogy.

Now when I say that your starting point is a name, I'm always referring to a complete name that includes both the father and mother's last names. You should read my blog #3 Want to find family in Mexico? What you need to get started because it covers the structure of Spanish names in greater detail.

Let's say that you have only one surname and it's Hernandez, one of the top 10 most popular names in Mexico, then more information would be needed to have any real hope of finding this person. In the case of Chantelle, the surname of her son's grandparents is Gaimes. She also let us know that the grandparents are reported to be living in San Luis Potosi. Gaimes is not a very popular name so a search was done to see if there were indications of any records with this name in San Luis Potosi.

Unfortunately, no evidence was found that there are records for someone in San Luis Potosi having the surname Gaimes. The genealogy search was extended to several cities beyond San Luis Potosi. Nothing. At this point, the surname Gaimes is now suspect. I like the principal of Occam's Razor when it comes to a family genealogy search in Mexico. Simply stated, "when you have two competing theories making exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." In this case, which is the more likely, that all of the Gaimes family left San Luis Potosi or that Gaimes may be a misspelling?

When no records are identified, it often indicates that there is a misspelling of the surname. An expert in Onomastics, the study of proper names, was brought in to review the surname Gaimes. After an exhaustive search, no record could be found of Gaimes as a Hispanic surname. This search included surname origins from Spain and most of Latin America. The closest surname spelling was Gamez that shows up in many Spanish countries.

Of course, not everyone who lives in Mexico has ancestry in Mexico so it's quite possible that Gaimes is a legitimate surname from non-Hispanic origins. However, with no indication of the existence of current records with this surname, the probability is that Gaimes is a misspelling. The good news is that Chantelle now knows this and she can talk with relatives to see if Gamez is perhaps the correct surname.

Doing your family genealogy search should be fun and can be very rewarding and at times exciting. Keep in mind, though, that you may hit a wall with the information you have. If so, then it's time to step back and seek out help from experts who specializes in Mexico family genealogy. Chantelle was smart because she got help and advice from an expert in Onomastics to review her information and point her, hopefully, in the right direction.


Richard Villasana

Richard Villasana
The Mexico Guru
Find Relatives In Mexico

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