How to Document a Name (not quite within an inch of its life)

Juliana de Luna (
Known World Heraldic Symposium

Sooner or later, everyone is left staring at the section of the bottom of the Name Submission Forms, where it says "Name Documentation and Consultation Notes." Today, we're going to talk about what to put in that space, to give the people you help the best chance to have their name pass without problems.

What do I Need to Document (and what will help me to do it)?

Under the Standards for Evaluation, you need to provide documentation for:

What Sources to Use

While you can get period names from anywhere, including history books, encyclopedias, and dictionaries, the names found in books like these are often changed to be more familiar to the modern ear. For example, Christopher Columbus was known to his Spanish contemporaries as Cristobal Colon. So to find good period forms of names, you have to go to books that don't modernize them. Luckily, lots of heralds before you have found books like that and created lists of period names in their period forms.

So, at the end of this, there's a list of good books and articles you can use to document names for a variety of cultures. For most of these books, you don't need to send in photocopies; and in many cases, you can find them on Google Books. They're also good books for you to look for, and books that most experienced heralds have. Don't worry that some of them aren't in English; people learn how to read a little French, German and Italian while doing name research and can help you with it. For the web articles, you need to include two photocopies of the first page and the page on which the information was found for those that are not on (or the Academy of Saint Gabriel report archive, about which more below). Similarly, if you find the information in a book not mentioned here, you need to make copies (unless it's on the Laurel no-photocopy list).

General Resources

There are a few really useful sets of web resources online; I'll also by region go back and talk about the specific articles and books I prefer to start with for each language.

How to write down what you've found

So, now that you've researched a name, you need to write down what you've found on a submission form. The first thing to remember is "Be truthful" - the people who read submissions know more than you do and tend to assume that misstatements of fact are "trying to get something over on the College." Laurel gives the submitter the benefit of the doubt, so don't feel like you need to make the case for a name better than it is.

For each name element, list (1) the source that you got it from (for the ones in the list above, usually the author alone is enough; otherwise, give enough that we can figure it out), (2) an accurate summary of the relevant information, and (3) your conclusion. Don't just give a source and page number; it has been stated that not summarizing information is grounds for return.

Let's try some examples:

Robin Wood:







Alianor Robins:








Æsa Thráinsdóttir:





Specific Resources

In this section, I'm going to go over, for several major cultural areas, the resources that I start with when I have to document a name and where to find them. The sources that require photocopies are marked with an asterisk. For the languages not listed here, start in that section of the Academy of Saint Gabriel's Medieval Names Archive (; there are generally a small number of

General Resources: There are a few generically useful ways to find names when you don't know what culture you're looking for or if you have tried the regular stuff.

Arabic: Here stick to articles, though I'll share a secret or two verbally. The two big articles are:

Dutch: Here, again, stick to articles. I start with the articles by Aryanhwy merch Catmael and Loveday Toddekyn.

England: This is one of the few places for which the books remain my first "go-to" source:

Other British Isles: Old English: * PASE, baby, PASE all the way. PASE (The Proposography of Anglo-Saxon England, found at is a collection of an amazing array of Anglo-Saxon names. It's the only thing I generally use.

Other British Isles: Wales: This is Tangwysyl verch Morgant Glasvryn's field, and her articles are the place to start:

Other British Isles: Anglicized Irish: We used to have little online that gave us Anglicized Irish forms, until Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada published two articles:

Other British Isles: Scots: For Scots, I still mostly go to a book:

French: For French, we have an embracement of riches, and it sometimes feels easy to get lost in the sources.

Other France: Occitan: Occitan was and is spoken in southern France, and has somewhat different naming patterns than the north.

Gaelic: Our records for Ireland are far better than for Scotland in Gaelic, in large part because Scots, that northern language related to English, would become the courtly and legal language in Scotland.

German: For German, I use a mix of online and written sources.

Greek: For Byzantine, the best sources are two articles by Bardas Xiphias:

Italian: In broad terms, the place to start is the 1427 Florence Catasto, which represents the Tuscan dialect that will come to dominate in modern Italy.

Russian: For Russian, the best source out there is Paul Wickenden of Thanet's Dictionary of Period Russian Names (2nd edition online at; 3rd edition can be acquired through the Stock Clerk). I rarely go any further.

Scandinavian: Old Norse: All of our online Old Norse name articles are derived from similar sources.

Scandinavian: Medieval:

Spanish: For Spanish, there are great online sources, but I find myself unable to live without one book.


HTML editing by Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada.

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