Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Names Are Not Always What You Expect Them To Be

One of my favorite volumes in my personal genealogy library is "Directory of the Ancestral Heads of New England Families 1620-1700,"  compiled by Frank R. Holmes in 1923. It 's a treasure trove of early New England information.  In the book's Foreword, Mr. Holmes briefly discusses one of the most vexing problems a genealogist can face, the dreaded name change:

Though the custom is widespread for all males to bear the names of their parents, common law sanctions a change of name when made in good faith.  There are no serious consequences growing out of an adoption of a new name, except the possibility of confounding the identity.   Many who have become famous in history, arts, and literature, have adopted a new patronymic in whole or in part....The baptismal name of General Grant was Hiram Ulysses, but was changed when he was nominated for a cadetship to the Military Academy at West Point, where he was recorded as Ulysses S. Grant, in which form it ever since has remained....Similar illustrations are found among worthies in European literature and art...Rembrandt's family name was Gerretz, which he changed to Van Ryn, on account of its greater dignity....Even Bonapart altered his name from Buonaparte to disguise his Italian origin.

Moral of the story:  names are not always what you except them to be.

Now back to the book.  The entry for my Waterbury ancestors:

John, hotel-keeper Watertown, Mass., 1646, removed Stamford, Conn., where he died 1658.  William, came in Winthrop's fleet 1630 to Boston, Mass., died soon after on return to England.

If anyone has a surname they want me to look up in this volume, send me a quick email or post a reply!  I love to share resources.

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