An Incomplete & Unofficial List of Nicknames (in place of formal given names) found in use among our Combs &c Families, and more about Combs/McCombs, Coombs, etc. and Variant Spellings, including a history of standardisation of surname spelling. See Also More Combs &c. Research Research Aids See Main page for the most complete “Variant Spelling” list.

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Nicknamea.k.a. or Formal Name
Aley, AllieAlice
Alsey, Alsy, Elsey, Elsie, etc.Alice
Barm, BramBiram, Byrom, Abraham
Bertie, BirdieRoberta, Bertalina
Betsy/Bettie/BettsElizabeth (abbrev. Eliza.)
BiddyObedience, Bridget
BillWilliam (abbrev. Wm.)
Bob, RobinRobert (Robt.)
Bony, BoneyNapoleon Bonaparte
Buford (or Bluford)William Buford (or Bluford)
Cage, CagerMicajah
CarrieCaroline, Carolyn
Cintha, Cinthia/CithaSeth, Sitha, Synthy
CynthiaSeth, Sitha, Synthy
Dicey, DicyLeodocia/Laedicia/Laodicia, etc.
DickRichard (abbrev. Rd., Richd.)
EasterEsther, Hester
ElickAlex, Alexander
Elce/ElsyAlice, Elsa
Fanny, Frannie, FrankieFrances (female)
Feely, FieldonFielding (frequently)
FrankFrancis (male), Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (frequently, namesake of Benjamin FRANKLIN)
Ginger, GinnieVirginia
GreenGreenberry (frequently) or Thomas Green (frequently, namesake of RW General Thomas GREEN)
HarryHarrison or Henry 
HettieHenrietta, Hester. Also possibly Esther or Easter, or Hetha, which is sometimes short for Beheathland
HughElihu, a.k.a. Eli Hugh, or Hugh Lawson White (namesake of Hugh Lawson WHITE of Frontier Tennessee)
JackJohn (abbrev. Jno.), Jackson
JacksonAndrew Jackson (frequently, namesake for Andrew JACKSON)
Jain/Jane/JanetJane, Jean, Joan
JeanJane (& vice versa), Joan
Jennie/JennyJane, Jean, Virginia
Jeremiah L.Jeremiah Lambert (frequently, namesake for Jeremiah LAMBERT, a Frontier Methodist Circuit Rider Preacher)
Jim or JimmyJames 
Jimmie, JemmieJemima 
JoeJoseph (Jos.)
JoshJoseph, Joshua, Josiah (abbrev. Jos. or Joh., although Joh. might also be Jonathan, Johnathan)
KittyCatherine, Katherine
L.D.Lorenzo Dow (frequently, namesake for Lorenzo DOW, a Frontier Methodist Circuit Rider Preacher)
LabonLaborn, Labourn
Letha, LettyLeatrice/Lettice/Leticia/Lutisha/ Letha, Lydia, Violet, Violetta (Viletta)
Levisa, Levicia, LouvisaLouisa
LiddyLydia, Letha, Lithe
Liza, LizzieEliza, Elizabeth
Lissy, LissieMalissa/Melissa
Lottie, LottaCharlotte, Charlotta
Marcus, MarkMarquis 
MarionFrancis Marion (frequently, namesake of RW General Francis MARION)
Miami, MimaJemima
MinniePerminia, Minerva
NancyAnn, Anne 
NathanJonathan (sometimes)
Ned, TedEdward (Edw.)
Nellie, NellyEleanor, Elinor
Nora, NorrieElinor
Pal, PallyPalestine
Pattie, PatsyMartha, Patricia
Pearl, Purl (male)(sometimes) Granville Pearl (namesake)
PhilPhillip, Philamon
Pleas, PlezPleasant (often namesake of Pleasant Miller of TN)
Rainy, RaneyLorraine, Lorena, Lourene, etc.
Sadie, Sally, Sallie, SareySarah 
SamSamuel (Saml.), Sampson
Seburn, CebronSeaborn, Seabourn, etc.
Sintha, Sinthy/Sitha/SytheSeth (often also a.k.a. Cynthia)
Sukie, SukeySusan, Susannah
Ted, NedEdward
Tessa, Tessie, TreasyTeresa/Theresa
TolbertTalbot, Talbott
TomThomas (abbrev. Thos.)
ViceyLavicia or Levicia
VineyLavina or Lavinia
Wash or WashingtonGeorge Washington (frequently)
Will, WillieWilliam
Willie, WyleyWiley (when Wiley B., namesake for Governor Willie BLOUNT of TN)
WillieWilmouth, Wilmot (female)
Xtopher, ZopherChristopher
Zadock, ZedekZedekiah

Variant Spellings

The surname Combs was and is spelled in a variety of ways. Moreover, particularly in old-style writing, the letters “m” and “n”, and “s” and “y” could often be confused. Among the variations and/or clerk &/or transcriber errors that we have seen are: COMB, COMBY, COMBYS, COMBER, COMER, COMS, COMES, COOMBES, COOMBS, COOMES, COOMS, CONE, COONS, COUMBS, AND EVEN KOMBS & KOMES. This does not mean that all were Combs or COOMBS phonetically. Any time that the name is seen as CONE, COMER or COMBY, then it is probably not a Combs (or var. sp.), unless the time period is early 1700s and before. There continues to be doubt as to whether Combs and McCombs were ever exchangeable, and/or whether the "Mac" was ever dropped from McCombs. (See Montgomery Co VA for example; also see Combs' Histories (Add'l Source References), the 1942 letter of Frank Woodward Combs) Also quite possible would be, for example, John McCombs being transcribed as John M. Combs, or the reverse. When in doubt, the solution - always - is to examine a copy of the original record, and if correct, to seek additional corroborative records. Also note that although the Combs &c. Research Reports generally use the spelling Combs, particularly for indexing, whenever the record itself shows a different spelling, we are faithful to the record.

An interesting background on surname spellings is offered by UK researcher Mike Haken (whom we thank for his permission to reprint):

In our modern educated society, we take for granted that there is a right and wrong way to spell every word, including surnames. What most people do not realise is that this is a very modern phenomenon. Indeed, English spellings only really became gradually standardised with the expansion of education through the 18th and 19th centuries. Before that, the concept of correct and incorrect spelling was not really valid, as the language was recorded phonetically. This was a time when the vast majority of the population were illiterate, and thus for whom correct spelling was not an issue. Records that we depend on for genealogy were made by educated people who recorded what they heard as best they could. For example, a clerk in one parish might record the surname as Coombes because that was the way he had seen it spelt before, however the clerk in an adjacent parish two miles away might record the name of the brother of the first Coombes as Cooms because that is how it sounded. As both families became educated, they would take their spelling from the way the respective clerks spelled their name, and thus preserve both spellings. As to which is correct, the answer of course is both, as in reality they are one and the same.

With a phonetic writing system, imagine what happens as families move around the country, with clerks struggling to interpret accents they had never come across - even today most Americans struggle with a broad Yorkshire accent.

In general, the further back you go the number of spelling variations actually increases as you get further away from modern standardisation, so the notion that all the various Coombs spellings originate from one spelling is unlikely to be correct, and in any case would be only likely to happen if the original family were literate. There is a further point here, as it is often assumed that each individual surname must have a common root, which in truth is rarely the case.

With a common occupational name, like for example Smith, there will be hundreds of family origins all over the country. Similarly with a name like Coombes, which is a word originally used as a common geographical description, there will probably be many roots, and each of course could result in a different spelling. What we now regard as the English language is in reality anything but. Because of the widely different racial origins of different parts of the country, there were similarly widely different ways of speaking. What are now just accents, were up to recent years strong dialects, with unique words and expressions (still are in some parts of Yorkshire), and go a few hundred years further back and those dialects become even more distinct. The further back you go, the closer to the original linguistic roots you get, with not only different pronunciation and accent, but different words and different grammatical structures. Indeed, the only “standard” usage of language was in the educated class, and the further back you go even that had increasing regional variation.

It is generally held that modern English is actually most akin to the Essex dialect of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Prior to that time, almost all written documents were made in Latin, was just about standard throughout the country so that all educated men could understand no matter how they talked! The change to recording in “English” (better to say Essex!) really marked the beginning of the standardisation of modern English.

See Also Chapter XXIII, Philology Remote Origins of The Combes Genealogy…, whose author, Josiah H. Combs, held a Ph. D. in languages, with emphasis on the philology and etymology of words.

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Seth, a female given name found frequently among Southern Combs, is found early in Virginia Records (pre-1700). Considerable confusion has arisen over the years in regard to this name, whose variant spellings seem to be almost unlimited, including Sith, Sitha, Sythe, Sytha, Citha, Cyntha, Sintha (and may have “corrupted” eventually into Cynthia.). It is found earliest in connection with the Combs in Stafford Co, VA (1) when John Combs, Sr. (s/o Joseph Combs I) married bef 1745, Seth BULLITT; and (2) when William Combs, Sr. (s/o Mason Combs, Sr.), married bef 1763, Seth STACY (d/o Simon & Judith TOLSON Stacy (Pettit), Sr.).

Note: Although it is possible that Seth STACY was named after Seth BULLITT Combs, no evidence of that has been seen as yet. Further confusing this naming pattern is the later marriage of Seth Combs (d/o Joseph Combs III, s/o John & Seth BULLITT Combs, Sr.) to George H. TOLSON, nephew of Judith TOLSON Stacy.
*See also the given name Seth amongst the BETHEL, HARRISON, MILLION and UNDERWOOD Families of Virginia.

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