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How would a family change their name in 1800's America?

Kempy

0
Location
Windermere
From
England
My boyfriend's mum is curious about her family history so as I'm laid up ill I thought I'd spend some time on it - she tells me that she was always told that her fathers side adopted the surname St Julien and that their name before this was Eberhart or Aberhart (not sure of exact spellings).

Having used census records etc the only thing I've found is that her great grandfather Paul Francis St Julien (born approx. 1860) according to the 1901 census records his birthplace as America and further digging showed him as being born in Charlestown/Charleston South Carolina and that his father had the exact same name and was born in about 1830's - but that's as far as I've got ..... if the family rumour is true and they did change their name - I guess a French sounding name would have fitted in better in South Carolina...but in those days - how did you go about changing your name? Would there have been records or would one name simply have disappeared from records and the new name popped up?!
 
I can only speak for the UK but in days before there was any central records on people this was easy, I do not suppose it was any different in other countries. If you decided that you wanted to be known by another name then you just called yourself by that name. This would have been easier if you moved to a new town or country as you were unlikely to meet anyone who knew you by your old name.

Foreigners coming to the UK often anglicised there names to make it easier to be understood by the locals and as the majority of people were illiterate they and probably you yourself did not know how to spell your name. Hence the different spellings of the same surnames when people just moved around even to adjacent parishes.
 
Thanks - that all makes sense! Although having carried on digging I can find no evidence so far that there was a name change - in fact the St Julien name seems to have been from some French Huguenots who fled to America after religious persecution....so maybe it's from another branch of the family....I guess I'll just have to keep digging! :D
 
I can only speak for the UK but in days before there was any central records on people this was easy, I do not suppose it was any different in other countries. If you decided that you wanted to be known by another name then you just called yourself by that name. This would have been easier if you moved to a new town or country as you were unlikely to meet anyone who knew you by your old name.

Foreigners coming to the UK often anglicised there names to make it easier to be understood by the locals and as the majority of people were illiterate they and probably you yourself did not know how to spell your name. Hence the different spellings of the same surnames when people just moved around even to adjacent parishes.

That was pretty much the case in the US, some jurisdictions didn't require even birth records here until 1900 or later. I have two brothers in my family tree with similar first names who got tired of being confused for one another--one kept the Swedish surname and the other anglicized it and hey presto--a new name for the descendants.

Census records here can be misleading too, the taker simply recorded what he was told, and in fact I know of one instance where a family was visiting from Canada and just said they were born in America, to avoid fuss I guess. Friend was very surprised to hear her mother was born here--so was her mother!
 
I have now found another relative who was looking for the same person as me, she however had been looking into it for some years and even went to America and dug through the records there - turns out that that guy was probably not even who he said he was and he almost entirely made up his identity!! Luckily through her digging she had a fair idea of who he was likely to be and was able to meet some other relatives but will never know for sure I guess unless they tested dna!

Just makes me wonder how many people did this, when all the times I've come to a blank on someone who seems to 'disappear' whether they didn't just fancy changing into someone else!
 
I have now found another relative who was looking for the same person as me, she however had been looking into it for some years and even went to America and dug through the records there - turns out that that guy was probably not even who he said he was and he almost entirely made up his identity!! Luckily through her digging she had a fair idea of who he was likely to be and was able to meet some other relatives but will never know for sure I guess unless they tested dna!

Just makes me wonder how many people did this, when all the times I've come to a blank on someone who seems to 'disappear' whether they didn't just fancy changing into someone else!

Hi there -- I know this thread is ten years old now, but I've just stumbled onto it while doing some research about Paul Francis St. Julien, who looks to be my great-great-great grandfather. I am dying to know more about this potential fake identity that you learned about. If you see this message, please reach out!
 
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