Is it John and Hugh or John Hugh Barr? How important is a comma?

+9 votes
120 views
As a former school teacher I often taught my students the importance of a comma. I would give examples such as "Let's eat Grandpa" and Let's eat, Grandpa." What a difference a small punctuation mark makes.

Never did I realize that years later I would see that lesson become important in my genealogy work. Today I was working on my 3rd great grandfather John Hugh Barr. At least that's what I thought his name was because on Ancestry in 13 family trees, it was listed that way in 10 of them. Now because I don't always believe everything in the family trees, I continued looking for sources. None of the census records have his name listed as John Hugh. It was either John or Hugh. But the spouses and children for these were not the same. My question was why?

Then I came upon the Cartmell's History of Frederick County, Virginia, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and their Descendants.  On page 466 Cartmell discusses the Barr family and lists the children of Robert B Barr (my 4th great grandfather) as James, John Hugh, Robert....   But in the subsequent paragraphs he gives more details. John married Ann Haymaker. Hugh married Elizabeth Arnold. Now the censuses for John and Hugh make sense. Cartmell left out a comman between John and Hugh, thus making him one person instead of two different people. And this mistake has been passed down for over a hundred years. All because of a missing comma!

Here is a link to page 466 in the history of the Shenandoah Valley if anyone wants to check it out.

[http://interactive.ancestry.com/10569/dvm_LocHist000221-00258-0?pid=485&backurl=http://person.ancestry.com/tree/26060352/person/12919678233/gallery&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Awy2980&usePUBJs=true]
WikiTree profile: John Barr
in Genealogy Help by Nikki Byer G2G6 (8.5k points)

1 Answer

+2 votes
I have a copy of the wonderfully titled "Eats shoots and leaves", a practical introduction to the use of punctuation in English. The title relates to the tale about a Panda going into a bar. His presence was reported in two different ways:

"He eats shoots and leaves", which has a much less violent connotation to the alternative "He eats, shoots, and leaves"
by John Orchard G2G6 Mach 2 (21.0k points)
That's a great book, John. I had a children's copy in my classroom! Great resource.

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