A interesting item that I have come across was the person identified by the name that they were actually born with or are they going by a nickname. This has been glaringly apparent when I have not been able to locate a paper trail on the person in records at all. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about.
My wife's grandfather's name was Cervanus. Now as if that name would not be easy enough to find due to the minimal amount of people that would use that name to find a child. They used this name on both his birth and marriage certificate, but after that time frame the trail runs cold. Understand he had full contact with him family after this time, but I was unable to locate the death certificate. After several attempts and some bad assumptions on my part I finally went to my wife's grandmother to have help me clear things up. First thing was that he did not die in the town I thought he had. He was still of working age, but his job had caused him to work during the week at a plant outside of the town. At weeks end he would come home for two days. He died during the week. I explained to her my problem with finding his death certificate. She said one of the issues was that at work they called him Bill. Huh? With this new found information I went to look in he records where she told me he worked in Michigan. Boom there he was. Ironically his name on the death certificate was not Cervanus, but Bill. Why you ask, because that is what the people he worked with new him by and that is what they told the authorities. Mystery solved.
Second mystery in my family was my own grandmother. The name I knew her by was Grandma Cleota. At family gatherings I would ask questions about her since she had died way before I was even born. Family members would look at me funny when I said this. One of her sisters finally said to me you mean "Babe".Well ever being the curious one I said please tell me that story. Well it seams her parents (My Great Grandparents) could not decide on a name for her so until they came to a decision they just called her temporarily "Babe". Guess what temporary in my family was for five years. Shortly after she was born they had taken a census and she was listed as "Babe". New I had the right family group, but no Cleota. Finally they came up with the name Cleota, but for the rest of her life she preferred to be called "Babe". That is how her family new her.
The final one I was helping one of my students do research during one of our field trips. When he had made up her research plan we felt very confident that we were going to find information on this individual. His name was Stanislaw and he was a Polish immigrant. We were able to find him up till the time he came to America. His name was spelled wrong on the passenger list. From the year of his immigration until the early 1920's we were able to find his name seven times spelled seven different ways. We were able to determine it was him by those living around him. Then finally in the early 1920's he changed his name to Stan. Prior to this time we never saw it spelled this way, but after the change it never varied. Always Stan.
Pay attention to the nicknames. Make certain to write them down. Simple things like Mike for Micheal or Lisa for Elizabeth. It is often the simple things that prevent us from moving on to the next step in our families.