Sunday, 24 July 2016

You say Doherty or Daugherty or O'Doherty, I say Dougherty

What's in a name? Or how you spell a name? An ongoing brick wall in my family history research was the many spelling variations of my family name. Until I started to think outside the box. But even now, it is still hard to find records and link to distant ancestors.

Until the 20th century, most spelling was phonetic and based on how the listener heard or thought a word sounded, In my own family, close relatives and closest ancestors, we use the Dougherty spelling. But I've found confirmed ancestors who either themselves used, or are recorded by others in church or other records using any of the following spellings:
  • Doherty
  • Daugherty
  • Dogherty
  • O'Doherty
  • Docherty
O'Dochartaigh crest
Perhaps there are other spelling variations that I've missed, but you get the idea. This made my research very headache-inducing at the least over the years.

Added to this was my father's explanation, okay, insistence, when I was growing up that Doughertys were Catholic and Dohertys were protestant. Now, while this can be true, in our case it turned out not to be the case, making my earliest research with those narrow parameters a hair-pulling exercise. Because, as it turned out, my 2nd great grandfather had a nephew, also a Marcus, but a Doherty (1815-1903), who also came to Vermont and then Quebec, was very Catholic, and eventually daughters, granddaughters and a grandson who became nuns and a priest respectively.

Someone, in my first experience of a random act of genealogical kindness, had to point out to me that for there to be both a Marcus Dougherty and a Marcus Doherty in Granby (population of a couple of thousand in the mid 1800s) and not be related was highly unlikely. Marcus is not that common an Irish name. That's when I started to cast an open-minded and wider net in my internet research,

So, what's the origin of my family name? It is one of up to 140 variations of the original Gaelic, O'Dochartaigh. The name has an illustrious history. Dochartaigh means the destroyer or obstructive or people of the oaks. Its many variations are the 15th most common surname in Ireland today. Here's a scholarly read of the name and its history.

The never ending story continues...

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