Breaking Down A Brick Wall–The Problem with Surnames, Part II

Fifth in a multi-part series

I  had hypothesized that my Gines people were associated with English-speaking people named Gines who came from the West Midlands area.  They came to Virginia and North Carolina and from there moved on to South Carolina and other states of the Deep South, eventually winding up in Louisiana and Texas.   That hypothesis was based on several key facts and assumptions:

  • That Gines was more an English name than anything else;
  • That the “variations” were “mistakes” of spelling or transcription;
  • That there was in fact a migration pattern such as I thought which has been documented;
  • That my Gines people in Louisiana had seemed to have a close relationship with families we know to have come from the Carolinas, such as the Brayboys and LeJays.

All of this made logical sense.  As it turns out, the reality may be much more complex.

I coupled my hypothesized migration pattern with an analysis of surnames for “legitimacy.”  Assuming there’s some validity to the notion, I recognized that the World Names Profiler is not necessarily the state pf the art tool for performing such analysis.  But it works well enough for present purposes here.  In any event, I note that neither “Gines” nor any other of the presumed variants appears in the New Dictionary of American Family Names, an authoritative source.

Without going through all of the analysis again (like all decent science, it’s replicable–try it yourself), here are some conclusions that I drew from the surname analysis:

  • The surname spelled “Gines” is probably overwhelming Spanish, occurring in Spain at a rate five times that of any other country.  (And here is one of the potential issues with the Profiler–it does not give us historical data.  But for established European names not displaced very much, we can probably draw some rough but valid inferences).
  • The name Gines is more likely French than it is English, occurring in France at an average rate more than five times that of the United Kingdom.
  • In the United States, the frequency of the name Gines is 95% of it frequency in France.  The U.S. statistics may be skewed by the large family sizes of LDS members with the name Gines.
  • The rough distribution of Gines-surnamed people seems to follow the five-family group model I have described previously.

So what about the “variations”?  Of course, to use the term “variation,” in some sense suggests that the names are isonyms. The whole issue is whether Gines is a creolization of , let’ say, Guion; or whether Guion is the pidginization of Gines.   The other possibility is that they are completely different names as Green is to Gray.

This is a complicated issue and there are few accessible  rigorous studies on the matter. I will tell what I know from my research. Understand that many of these are broad conclusions with a high degree of ambiguity.

I think that it is clear that “Gines” and “Gynes” as they appear from 1870 on in the United States are the same name–that “Gynes” is a phonetic attempt at “Gines.”  There is no evidence that “Gynes’ occurs anywhere in the U.S. except where “Gines” does or historically has, appeared.

The matter of “Guynes” is rather interesting.  Just looking at it and supposing the English pronunciation, it would appear also to be a phonetic rendering of “Gines.”   Curiously, the name “Guynes” occurs most frequently in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. historically almost always among white people.  In counties where there are whites named Guynes, there are likely to be blacks named “Gines.”  The other curiosity is that as I looked at census records for the states I’ve mentio0ned, I found among the white people named Guynes a high occurence of first names like Edward, Henry, Lewis, and Oscar–all of which occur frequently in the black Gines family! One source says that “Guynes” is not pronounced like “Gines,” but is a variant of the Gowen name.

Now to the name Guion, which is the name  under which we found our subject, the father of Richard Gines.  Guion is clearly a French name.  It is probably not a variation of “Gines.”  I’ve come to the conclusion that the original name of this branch of the family tree was likely “Guion”  (“Guyon” a likely variation).  That of course leaves a couple of big questions.  What makes me conclude that? How did George Guion get his name? And why did his son think the name was “Gines”?  The answers to these questions are all tied up in thee geography and history of Louisiana and Mississippi.  It will take some time to completely unravel that, but I will lay it out as I can over time.  It is fascinating.


August 2009
« Jul   Sep »