how common are similar but not identical names for siblings, such as Allan and Allen?
I have seen John and Jonathan in the same family. Mary and Mercy. But these are typically from before 1800. A name like Allen or Allan I would dare say are newer names. The inclination would be to say they are the same person absent good proof that they are different people.
Are they twins (with proof) or twins based upon one of our counterparts that added a twin based upon a source that had the name that did not agree, maybe even by age?
Another scenario where more than one child shared names was that the first born died young and another child got that name. An odd custom but one that was common before 1800.
Do these Allen/Allan’s have middle names? Are there brothers, fathers, uncles of the parents with the same name?
As I said, absent proof the inclination is to say they are the same person. Maybe if you find information supporting one of the Allen/Allan’s and absolutely nothing on the other may tell you something. And of course you need to think about how/where you learned of the two Allen/Allan’s.
I always think of doing genealogy as putting together a puzzle. Maybe one of the Allen/Allan’s belongs to a different puzzle altogether.
Good luck solving the riddle.
Allan/Allen was just an example. i have heard of a case of giving 2 children the same name John in the same family. i saw it on TV because police arrested them both for robbery (they both matched witness accounts). the TV news talked about that with police who admitted they were “scratching their heads” as a result of the names, at first. this was several years ago.
i did run across Sara and Sarah in my family research. for a while all i had was the same year of birth (early 1800s) and same county. i was sure it was the same person. turns out they were 1st cousins.
i have learned that the English language before around 1600 to 1800 considered any spelling that gave about the same sound to be “correct”. this readily explains many of the very old documents i have read and is probably the result of the history of changes from Old French and Old Norsk since Early Old English. people just saw all the changes as “i don’t care”. apparently, that practice didn’t just suddenly end. apparently, it has resurged, again, as a result of social media. people just make a try to spell like it sounds and no one really cares.
In cultures that have ‘Saint names’ it is not uncommon to have a family Saint that is given to each child. The children then are ‘called’ by a middle name.
For instance, there was a German tradition to name all the boys a variant of John. The head of the family was actually called John and when he died, the new head of family took that as his ‘Call’ name. The amusing anecdote about that is the myth that the Grim Reaper had to call you by name, so if every man in the house was John Schmidt, then death might be cheated.
I have some problem children like Dave mentioned: namesakes who died young and were replaced by the next child of that gender inheriting the namesake obligation. I’ve taken to annotating the given name of the 1st namesake with a “(1)”. It keeps me from mistakenly merging duplicate namesakes.
I have multiple cases where a child died and the next child born got the exact name of the deceased child.
Sometimes more than once.
I also encounter runs of very similar names for children. One family has Adiel, Emiel, Achiel, Theofiel, Kamiel and Erild. Another has Jean-Pierre, Jean-Michel, Jean-François, Jean-Jacques, Jean-Jean (!), Jean-Marie, Jean-Yves, Jean-Philippe.
the family of a friend from high school had girls named Betty Jo, Sally Jo, and Amy Jo. the father’s first name was Joe. the friend’s name was Larry.
My mother had an uncle that married a few time. His name was Alfred Leroy … From his first wife, he named a son Alfred Leroy Jr. In his third family, he named his first son, Alfred Leroy Jr. Both sons were alive at the same time.
so was he Alfred Leroy Sr.Sr.?