Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on Warmack genealogy

Some folks have asked me some questions regarding Warmack genealogy. Before I field those questions, I would like to establish what I believe is the relationship between Warmack and Womack.

When I talk about this family, I tend to use the spelling "Womack". This is because my grandma spells it that way, and because it is the most common spelling in America and in England. It is not the "correct" spelling.

I have read people stating that Warmack is a "misspelling" of Womack. I find that pretty insulting, and I can understand why people get upset. There is no wrong way to spell a name. People forget that names are part of language, and that language evolves. If we could go back in a time machine to England 1000 years ago, we would have a very difficult time undestanding the speech of the people back then. The Womack family has been in America well over 300 years, and branched out over much of the country. It would be amazing if there were no variations.

I recounted my personal Womack line here:

My grandmother is Thelma Clara (Womack) Burke. Her great-grandparents were Burrell H Womack and Avarilla Cook. However, their marriage record lists them as "Burwell Warmack and Avy Cook". Practically every Womack line has records where the name is spelled Warmack. This is how the name was sometimes pronounced, in some southern accents. This pronunciation happened most often in Tennessee and Georgia.

My grandfather, Thelma's husband, was born and raised in Tennessee. When I first got into genealogy, I asked him about his family. He told me about his Aunt Noler. It took me a month of looking through census microfilm to realize he had said "Aunt Nola". It was just my Grandpa's Tennessee accent.

I have also seen records where southerners stated that had lived in Perlaskey County, Georgia. Where is Perlaskey County? They meant Pulaski County.

Many of our ancestors (including many of mine) were illiterate. Many people take that to mean they were stupid. However, they could probably name more plants than almost anyone alive today. They knew about animals, and farming, and the names of constellations, and they could quote scripture. People today fill their minds with TV and celebrity gossip, so who is more stupid? Anyhow, enough of that rant. Our ancestors were often illiterate to the point they could not spell their last name, so when their children did learn to read, they spelled the name as they heard it, which was how it was pronounced in the area they lived.

Womack has two primary pronunciations today:
WOE MACK - rhymes with "row back"
WAH MUCK - rhymes with "raw buck"

These are certainly not the only pronunciations.
There is also Waymack, prounced WAY MACK (rhymes with "way back"). This spelling is found in Virginia, Illinois, and Arkansas.

Long ago, the name was occassionlly spelled Walmack, which I believe was pronounced WAL MACK (reminds me of Wal-Mart). Walmack is related to Warmack. The R and L sounds are related - there is a reason why names with R in them have nicknames with L in them: Mary - Molly, Sarah - Sally, Dorothy - Dolly, Caroline - Callie, Harold - Hal. As English speakers, we hear the difference between R and L very easily, but speakers of some languages, such as Japanese, have a tough time telling them apart. Walmack occurred mostly in some areas of Virgina, though I have seen it in other places. The areas where Walmack occurred were often areas with lots of Germans, French, or Dutch, so maybe that had something to do with the Walmack spelling and pronunciation.

Some Womack branches put an S sound on the end, so we got the spellings of Womacks (mostly in Ohio and Illinois) and Wamax (in West Virginia).

There are plenty of spelling variations that are prounced the same:
Womach (the "ch" pronounced like "ck")

I have heard people say that cannot be related to the Womack family because their family spells it Wommack! These people really need to go through some old records. I have seen tax list where the name is spelled differently several years in a row. I have seen the name change spelling in the same document, sometimes in the same sentence. The people who insist on the Wommack spelling might be surprised to find records of their ancestor spelled Wamack, Woemack, Waughmick, Warmack, etc.

One origin of the Womack name I have heard is that it comes from the Old English for hollow oak - Wombok - womb (which literally meant "hollow space") and ok (oak). I cannot vouch for this origin, but if true, the name evolved to drop the B sound.

The earliest Womack records in America tend to spell the name Womeck or Womecke, but then Womack becomes pretty standard. Once the Womacks started branching out of Virginia, the spelling went wild.

I have heard people say things such as they can find no Warmack before 1700. This is because there were none. The Womack name had not evolved into Warmack yet - that would happen after they moved to Tennessee and Georgia. You can read a highly unlikely alternative scenario here:

There are several surnames that are confused with Womack, but are entirely different names:
Warnock / Warnick / Warneck / Warnack
Warmath / Warmouth / Warmoth
Waynick / Wenick
Hammock / Hammack (the H confused for W)

These names often appear the same as Womack or Warmack in old handwriting. We have trouble distinguishing today, and the same mistakes were made years ago. I have seen tax lists where Womack is spelled Warmoth. I have seen marriage records where Warnock is spelled Warmack. I spent several days trying to track down Eli and Monica Womack mentioned in a Georgia newspaper - I figured it must be correct if it was in print - only to research and find it was Eli Warnock and his wife Monica Gray. The people who printed newspapers were given handwritten documents which they had to interpret as best as they could.

Although there are many spellings and pronunciations, all Womack variations have three things in common:
W sound at the beggining
M sound in the middle
K sound at the end

No Womack variation ever had an N or a T or a H, so Warnock, Warmoth, and Hammock are totally unrelated.

I have seen people quote ship lists that "say" Warmacks came to America from Scotland or Ireland. First off, have they seen the actual hand-written list or a typed-out version? Some people (who mostly work for have no business interpreting old handwriting. These supposed Warmacks mostly look like Warnick or Warnock to me.

I have a few "Genealogy Commandments", one of which is "Thou shall not jump to conclusions based upon a single record".

I went through these ship lists, and found these people that some thought looked like Warmack. I then took the extra step of taking the info from the ship lists (names, ages, birth places) to track these people down in the censuses. I was not always successful in finding them, but when I did (about half of them), the census records show they were Warnock or Warnick.

You will sometimes see Warmack in old UK (England) censuses, but if you follow these people back or forward a census or two, you will see they were Womacks. The same Warmack pronunciation sometimes happened in England as well.

I research the entire Womack family (all spellings) in America, but I stop around 1850 to keep this project from being too large - plus most people have no trouble tracing their ancestry after 1850. Prior to 1850, I know of 3 legitimate Warmack lines in America.

Warmack Line #1
The brothers William and Matthew Warmack came from Virginia; to Guilford Co, NC; to Warren Co, KY; then to Davidson Co, TN. William died there, but Matthew moved on to Wayne Co, MO. William and Matthew were the sons of Richard Womack / Walmack / Warmack. There were lots of Richard Womacks in Virginia, but most are accounted for, and I only know of two that make sense for reasons I will eventually get around to explaining. These were Richard Womack, son of Matthew Womack; and Richard Womack, son of Abraham Womack, Jr. A DNA test by a Warmack male of this line could prove one or the other.

Warmack line #2
William Womack / Warmack came from Wake Co, NC. He was the son of John Womack who died in the 1760s in Johnston Co, NC; this John probably came from Virginia. William Womack came from Wake Co, NC; to Wilkes Co, GA; to Washington Co, GA; to Montgomery Co, GA; to Pulaski Co, GA where he died. His sons, Timothy and John Warmack, moved to Mississippi. Two of John's sons lived in Copiah Co, MS - one went by Benjamin Womack, and the other went by Joel Sherrard Warmack.

Warmack line #3
John Warmack was born about 1789 in South Carolina, but moved at an early age to Franklin Co, GA; then to Habersham Co, GA. He was last seen in the 1850 census in Benton Co, AL. This is the one Warmack line I have not hooked to Womack yet; however John Warmack's name was often spelled Womack, so I feel he also has Womack ancestry.

I coordinate the Womack DNA project, in addition to doing tons of Womack research. The current cost of a DNA test is $138, and it must be taken by a male Womack or Warmack. It is very easy, and totally painless. I would love to see more volunteers as participants, with more Womack spelling variations. I truly believe we are all related.

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