Thursday, April 9, 2015

Alys's Simple Guide to Summarizing Name Documentation

A good, readable and comprehensible summary of documentation is essential for name submissions.  Commenting heralds need to be able to find the necessary information about name elements easily.  Even more importantly, the Pelican Sovereign of Arms needs to be able to find the information necessary to making a name decision.

In fact, Section V.B.1.d of the Administrative Handbook of the SCA College of Arms requires all Letters of Intent prepared by Kingdoms to include "[a] summary of all supporting evidence provided for the submission. . . . Such evidence includes documentation, permissions to conflict, proofs for entitlement, statements of support for transferred items, and evidence for support in the case of branch submissions."

Part of the essential skills for a Submissions Herald, therefore, is the ability to take less the often disorganized documentation received from submitters and create a coherent summary.   Likewise, it makes the lives of Submissions Heralds much easier if consulting heralds provide good summaries and assist their submitters in doing the same.

This Simple Guide walks Submissions Heralds and consulting heralds through the process of preparing a good documentation summary.  While addition materials may be needed for particular complex or unusual names, reading this Simple Guide should contain everything a herald needs to know for most submissions.

What Should Be In Every Summary?

A good documentation summary does not simply list the source in which a name element is found.  It explains what the source says about the name, as well as how to find the specific spelling of the name in the source.

At a minimum, a documentation summary should contain:
  • The name of the article or book where the name element is found;
  • The author of the article or book;
  • The url for any on-line source;
  • If the source has headings, the heading under which the name element appears;
  • The date given for the name element in the source; and
  • Proof of the name formation pattern, particularly if it is in a language other than English.  Common name formation patterns can be found in Appendix A of SENA.  Any patterns not found in Appendix A must be documented.

If documenting a name from the Family Search Historical Records (, at a minimum, you must include:
  • The name; 
  • The gender; 
  • The date when the name was found; 
  • The country where the name was found;  
  • The Batch number; and
  • The url for the specific record(s) cited.

Anything Else That Is Good To Have In A Summary?

If the name elements are not from the same language, you should also indicate whether the language are from compatible Regional Naming Groups under Appendix C of SENA.

If there are relevant precedents that affect the name, those precedents should be cited in the documentation if possible.   For example, if the submitter is capitalizing an Old Norse descriptive byname, the Cover Letter permitting capitalization should be cited.

If the name is a resubmission from Society-level, what was the prior name and the reason for the return?  How does the resub address the reason for return, or is it an entirely new name?

What Format Should I Use?

The Administrative Handbook does not mandate any particular format for name documentation.  Whatever format you use should  should be clear and easy to read.  Large gaps in text and disconnected paragraphs should be avoided, as should dense blocks of data.

I used the following general format during my tenure as East Kingdom Submissions Herald

Name is a [language] [type of name], found in [source], dated to [date(s)].

For example, for the name Mergery Potticary:

Mergery is an English female given name found in “English Given Names from 16th and Early 17th C Marriage Records” by Aryanhwy merch Catmael ( s.n. Margery dated to 1583.

Potticary is an English surname appearing in Bardsley, p. 617 s.n. Potticary, with this spelling dated to 1591.

On Citing Sources

The College does not have official standard citation formats.  However, there are some generally accepted formats that are helpful to follow when summarizing documentation.

When citing a standard, well-known naming book:
  • Generally, such sources are cited by the author's name or names, or abbreviations.  For example, the abbreviation OCM is used for Ó Corrain, Donnchadh & Maguire, Fidelma. Irish Names.
  • The abbreviation R&W refers to Reaney, P.H. and R. M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames.
  • If you are unsure what an abbreviation means, check Appendix H of the Administrative Handbook, which identifies the most common SCA names books.
  • Always be sure to include the header form under which the name element is found (see explanation below).
When citing an on-line article:
  • The most commonly used format puts the article name in quotation marks, followed by the url in parenthesis.
  • The author's name can come either before or after the article name.  For SCA authors, the College generally uses the author's SCA name rather than his or her legal name.
  • For example:   "German Names from Nürnberg, 1497" by Aryanhwy merch Catmael (
    Aryanhwy merch Catmael's "German Names from Nürnberg, 1497" (
The importance of headers:
  • When using a specialty name book or article, there is frequently a header form (often modern) of the name, with various dated instances of the name listed under that header.  Using Talan Gwynek's "Feminine Given Names in A Dictionary of English Surnames" ( as an example, we find the following entry:

Albreda < OFr Albree, Aubree, Auberee, CG Alb(e)rada. [Aubray]
Albray1379 Aubray
Albreda1185 Tippell; 1198 Aubray; 1187-1215, 1218 (W); 1221 Aubray; 1327 Fairbody; 1381 Goodrich
Albree1221 Aubray
Aubray1379 Aubray
Aubreda1219 Aubray
  • Albreda is the header form.  When citing any of the dated period forms under that header, the College uses the convention s.n. (for sub nom) Albreda.    
  • Citing the header form helps Pelican and commenters find the necessary information about the name.  In name encyclopedias such as R&W or OCM, the header is more useful than the page number. 
When citing from Google Books:
  • Citations to Google Books should include the author's name, the name of the work, the relevant page number, and the Google Books url for the work.
  • If the book is a modern work, the publication date is not required.  If the book is a period work, the publication date is essential to dating the name and should be included.
  • Any standard bibliography format for such works is acceptable, as long as the page number and url are included.
  • As an example of a modern names book:  Felix is a cognomen discussed at pp. 25-26 of  A Study of the Cognomina of Soldiers in the Roman Legions, by Lindley Richard Dean (
  • As an example of a citation to a period book:  von Schaidegg -- "von dem Hof Schaidegg" appears at p. 890 of Gründliche Außführung der Reichsstadt Lindaw, die ohnversehens abgelöste und der Ertzhertzogin Claudiae Fürstl, by Daniel Heider, published in 1643 (

When citing a report from the Academy of St. Gabriel:
  • Academy of St. Gabriel reports are cited by report number and url.
  • Simply stating that a name appears in a St. Gabriel report is not enough -- there must be an explanation of what the report says about the name.  For example: Gabriel is discussed in Academy of St. Gabriel Report # 3349 (, which states: "The given name <Gabriel> is found in England as early as the twelfth century: <Gabriel> 1199, <Gabriel filius Reginaldi> 1212, and <Gabriele Spyg> 1296."
  • It is no longer required to cite the sources in the footnotes when referring to a St. Gabriel report.

When citing to the Family Search Historical Records:
  • The Batch number is essential when citing a Family Search Historical Record.  Currently, the acceptable Batches are the B Batch and those listed in the March 2013 Cover Letter.  I Batches are accepted on a case by case basis.
  • While not required, I tend to prefer the following format for Family Search citations, because it includes all of the necessary information for evaluating the name:

    [name]; [gender]; [event]; [date]; [place]; [Batch] (url)

    For example:  Serena Comaduran; Female; Marriage; 24 May 1587; San Pedro, Rubí, Barcelona, Spain; Batch: M88901-2 (

Examples of Good Documentation Summaries:

For the name Caroline von Zell

Caroline is a female German given name, found in the Family Search Historical Records:

Caroline Heuesinger; Female; Christening; 21 Feb 1598; Evangelisch Koendringen, Freiburg, Baden; Batch: C93713-1 (

Zell appears as the medieval spelling of a German place name in "German Names from Nürnberg, 1497" by Aryanhwy merch Catmael (

Under Appendix A of SENA, in German, locative bynames based on place names use the form von X.


For the name Brice del Birche

Brice is a male French given name found in "An Index to the Given Names in the 1292 Census of Paris" by Colm Dubh (

del Birche is an English locative byname found in Reaney & Wilson s.n. Birch, with this spelling dated to 1275.

Appendix A gives the pattern given name + locative byname for both French and English.

English and French can be combined under Appendix C of SENA.


For the name Eoin Ó Mathghamhna

"Quick and Easy Gaelic Names (3rd Ed.)" by Sharon Krossa ( sets out the pattern for clan affiliation-style bynames as:
<single given name> Ó <eponymous clan ancestor's name (in genitive case)>

Eoin is an Early Modern Irish male given name with 58 Annals dates between 1246 and 1600, appearing in "Index of Names in Irish Annals" by Kathleen O’Brien (

Mathghamhain is also an Early Modern Irish male given name found in “Index of Names in Irish Annals” (, with Annals dates of 1255, 1266, 1271, 1314, 1461, 1472, 1483, 1489, 1588.  Mathghamhain is the nominative form; Mathghamhna is the genitive form.


For the name Lucien Durand de Carnavelt

Lucien is a male French given name dated to 1574 s.n. Lucien in "Something Rich and Strange: “Undocumentable” Names From The IGI Parish Records" by Alys Mackyntoich (

Durand is a French surname found s.n. Loys in "Names from a 1587 Tax Roll" by Aryanhwy merch Catmael (

de Carnavelt  is a locative byname found in the same article s.n. Charles.

The pattern given name + byname + locative is found in French according to Appendix A of SENA.


For the name  Serena Glorieux of Bright Hills

Serena is a female Spanish given name found in the Family Search Historical Records:

Serena Comaduran; Female; Marriage; 24 May 1587; San Pedro, Rubí, Barcelona, Spain; Batch: M88901-2 (

Glorieux is a French surname found in the 16th century, according to Academy of St. Gabriel Report 3389.

The pattern given name + surname + locative byname is found in both French and Spanish per Appendix A of SENA.

of Bright Hills -- The Barony of Bright Hills is an SCA local group; this branch-name was registered in July of 1989 (via Atlantia).


For the name Alfhildr Thorfinsdottir

Alfhildr -- The female given name Álfhildr appears on p. 8 of Geirr Bassi's The Old Norse Name.

Thorfinnsdottir is a patronymic byname formed from the male given name Þorfinnr, which appears on p. 16 of Geirr Bassi.  The byname is formed from the genitive form of  Þorfinnr + -dóttir as set forth on p. 17 of Geirr Bassi.  The December 2010 Cover Letter permits the registration of simplified forms of Old Norse names using 'th' in place of 'Þ'.

Accents can be omitted from Old Norse names as long as they are treated consistently throughout the name.  [Bjorn Hildólfsson, 7/2014 LoAR, A-Lochac]

Given name + patronymic byname is one of the patterns found in Appendix A for Old Norse.

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking for a source on cognomina, so thank you for that!

    Serious face: This is useful. The one thing I'd likely do differently would be to point people to Appendix H just to be sure -- "OCM, listed in Appendix H of SENA". SENA is enormous and takes time to get to know. If I'm seeing a source by its initials, I'd rather have someone reassure me "Yes, this is an Appendix H source, relax" than shrug and go "It must be in Appendix H" and be scolded up the line.

    E. Woderose
    (Lady Not Certain of Her Wordpress Name)