When recording your family history, here are a few tips you might find useful to keep things clear.
1. Enter Names Consistently
Whether you record names in your family tree as you would read them: first name, middle name, surname (last name); or surname first, then first name, middle name - be consistent. Pick one and stick to it, or you will end up confusing yourself - and anyone else who looks at your research.
2. Record Surnames in Uppercase
I always record last names using uppercase letters. It allows me, and other researchers to find certain surnames more easily. It can also aid researchers in deciphering exactly what they’re looking at: a surname, as opposed to a first name or middle name. For example Peter GREEN; Rosa May PIKE.
3. Remember to Input Maiden Names for Female Ancestors
You may well discover that some of your ancestors were recorded using married names, names of prior husbands, AND maiden names. Make sure you include her maiden name in your records - it can help you uncover who her parents were, too. How you do so is up to you - either by recording all female relatives by their maiden names ie Rosa May PIKE, or by including their maiden name in parentheses, and then the surname of her husband ie Rosa May (Pike) GREEN. Again, it is vital to be consistent.
4. Don’t Forget Nicknames
If your ancestor went by a nickname, always include it in your documentation. Don’t replace a given name with a nickname, however, even if your ancestor went by this name more commonly than their actual first name. Instead, include nicknames in quotes. For example, Richard “Dick” Pike. Remember you may have to search under both given name and nickname - just in case.
5. Add Alternate Names
Sometimes you will find family members who have totally alternate names, rather than nicknames. This commonly occurs if someone was adopted or changed their name on their own accord (maybe to escape a shady past). Again you could include the alternate name in parentheses, adding “a.k.a” (also known as) to make things clear. For example: Edward FORREST (a.k.a. Frederick BEST).
6. Variant Spellings
You are also bound to stumble upon alternate names due to variant spellings (they can sometimes change over time due to phonetic spellings or from immigration). My mother's maiden name was PUMMEROY - and our family in Australia are the only ones who spell it this way. Others use POMMEROY, POMEROY, POMROY - at one stage it even morphs into PUMFREY. This is not just relevant to surnames either - you also get anglicised first names as well - Friedrich/Frederick BESELER. One female ancestor of mine was born Suatus KRESST in Germany, married in England as Susetta KRESST and died in Australia as Susan (Kresst) BESELER - it took years to track her down!