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In the article titles, the editors have tried in most cases to enter biographies under names given at birth or, in the case of a married woman, under her married name. Religious names, stage names, screen names, pen names, changed names, and nicknames are generally given as biographical information within the article. Consequently, for instance, Billy the Kid is entered under what was evidently his birth name, Henry McCarty, and Joan Crawford is entered under the name Lucille Fay LeSeur. Some exceptions to the rule occur. Gustav Elley, for instance, was born Gustavus von Elterlein, but because he was always known in Texas under the shorter name, it is the entry form for his biography. Nicknames are usually given in parentheses at the beginning of the articles: "William (Alfalfa Bill) Murray, a famous political figure...."; "Timothy Isaiah (Longhair Jim) Courtright, two-gun marshal of Fort Worth...." Maiden names of the mothers and, in some contexts, the wives, of biographical subjects are given in parentheses, in the belief that this practice will aid the reader to make genealogical connections within the New Handbook and outside of it. Also given in parentheses are variant spellings of names. The names of many historical figures are spelled in more ways than one in both primary and secondary sources. Often it is difficult to choose the "right" spelling. In spite of much research and vacillation, the editors were unable to be certain how, for instance, Philip Dimmitt spelled his surname--or if he always spelled it the same way.
In most cases, the editors have entered biographies of people with Spanish names under their proper surnames. This means, for instance, that Manuel de Mier y Terán is listed under Mier, not Terán. When Spanish names occur in a pre- twentieth-century context, the editors have generally written them with diacritics.