Documenting names for the SCA doesn’t always require large tomes or some sort of wizard with super-linguistic skills to interpret a source. One of the best sources we have at our disposal is FamilySearch, a genealogical tool that has compiled not only International Genealogical Index records, but other records (such as parish and birth) as well. This article will show you how to use FamilySearch to document names for SCA registration and use.
First off, FamilySearch is a repository of two different types of records. The first type is that of User Submitted Genealogies, which consist of family information contributed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormons). The contributions may be fantastic. . . or not so, because it is genealogical research. You may run into modernized spelling, duplicate information, or even inconsistent information. As a result, these types of records are not permitted for use in documenting names for the SCA.
The second type of record is that of Historical Records, which two members from the community have transcribed information from an extant source (usually a scan or a photograph, though sometimes they’re Victorian transcriptions of an older source). If the transcribed information does not agree, an expert then looks at it and determines what is correct. That means that they’re at least as dependable as the other sources we use, and the SCA College of Arms considers those transcriptions reasonable documentation for the spelling and dating of a name element.
Let’s get started in learning to search for a name.
When starting your search, start at familysearch.org, and make sure that you’ve selected the Records tab. This should show a few search bars, with options to search by life event, relationships, or can even restrict your search by location, type, batch number, or even a microfilm number. Much like a search engine like Google, the information that you put into the prompts will give you the best results based on input. So, if you misspell part of the name, don’t limit the time frame, or limit the location to one spot, it is possible that you may not get the results you want or are even useable.
The name I was given to research was David Moffatt.
So, my first thing is to break apart the name into individual chunks: first name and last name, and search both independently of one another. I could search both parts, but this could result in no results found, or a result found out of period. I started with the last name, which I chose because it’s probably a bit more difficult to find than David. I entered this into the last name section, then selected “Any” from the “Search with a life event.” By selecting “Any,” this allows the user to look at all records: parish, death, burial, marriage, birth, and christening records, instead of a very specific record. This keeps the search fairly broad. I then selected the range of time as 1000 CE to 1650 CE, which does limit the search to those 650 years, and as the College of Arms will not register anything later than 1650 and FamilySeach will not look for anything prior to 1000, it is best to limit your search to these dates. I left the place blank, again, keeping the search just broad enough. There is a ticky-box for “Match All Terms Exactly,” though I recommend not using that unless you are looking for an exact match of a spelling. Be aware that this may result in no search results, so use this ticky-box responsibly.
I then clicked search and then I ended up with a page of results! Unfortunately, some of the results were marked as “Find A Grave” records, which are not acceptable records. Another thing to watch out for is that modern American records can and will sneak into your results. While both of the birth records on the Find A Grave records have a date from an acceptable “grey-area” time (post-1600 but pre-1650), the record doesn’t have a batch number, which means it can’t be used. (It does have a photo, but not with a gravestone indicating that the name was normalized, making these records less than helpful. Modern American records, like the record of Duane Moffatt, may indicate a false positive. These, likewise, are not acceptable for research for SCA names. (These are usually the case of a volunteer transcribing the date incorrectly. It is easier to ignore these and keep digging.)
I was, however, successful in finding a Moffatt from an acceptable batch and year. What’s interesting about this particular record is the spelling variations offered. It is reasonable to assume that the name could have had a few spelling variants, and that the person’s name wasn’t “Moffett Or Moffatt.” A few things of note from this historical record: one, the christening date is that of pre-1600, and two, the batch number (next to the indexing project) is a P batch.
When using the Historical Records to document the particular name element (which, yes, you may use in combination with other sources, such as books on the No Photocopy list), you must provide a summary of the FamilySearch result including the batch letter and number on the name form is sufficient documentation and additional printouts are not required. The batch letter and number is important! Batches B, C, J, K, M (except M17 and M18), or P are all acceptable, whereas batches that are all digits, begin with M17 or M18, D, F, H, L, or T are not acceptable, with all other batches allowed on a case by case review. The main reason why certain batches are allowed over ones that are not is due to earlier indexes may actually reflect out of date scholarship, and therefore are not acceptable to the College.
Now that we have a last name, let’s use the same process for the first name, only this time, let us put a few more limitations on the search. The record above shows that Thomas Moffett/Moffatt is from England, so by restricting the records to England only means that we can gain a higher chance of extreme temporal and cultural compatibility. I’ve kept all of the information the same – I want any record from 1000-1650, and by putting in “England” in any place, I’ve successfully locked the search to any English sources in that timeframe. As you can see, I ended up with a lot of Davids. The hard part now is sifting through the records until one finds an acceptable batch. In this case, David Marten, is from an acceptable batch (a B-batch), and is within 10 years of our Moffatt record.
So, how do we combine all of this information and summarize it for submission? The key is to use the most important information: Name, Gender, Date, Type of Record, Place, and Batch Number.
Let’s take our two records here. When I document for submission, I follow a very similar path to researching the names – I break apart the individual parts of the name, this time starting with the first name. I always include the element that I’ve documented separate from the full name of the record, so in documenting David, my summary would look like this, making sure to also include the link where the individual record is held.
David: David Marten, male, buried 04 Apr 1589, England, Batch B03579-4. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JC1D-GTT)
Moffatt: Thomas Moffett Or Moffatt, male, christened 30 Oct 1590, SAINT JOHN,NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE,NORTHUMBERLAND,ENGLAND, Batch P00418-1. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NBCL-R41)
That’s it! Once all elements are documented, double check your work (maybe against the names checklist and definitely against the O&A), and take your work to your local herald or, if you are the local herald, submit using your kingdom’s processes.
And, if you ever want a bit of fun, consider trying to find names that you didn’t think were documentable, like Kathleen, Ian, or even Jade. You might surprise yourself (and the College)!