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Surname change

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Sunderland, born Hull
#1
Hi
My great grandfather, Robert Webster was/is an absolute nightmare to find on the census records. I eventually found out from a relative I got in touch with who now lives in Australia that he changed his surname from Smelt to Webster. Would he have had to change his name legally like we do now via deed poll and would there be any records of this? Also how do I record him on my tree as he has potentially being known as Smelt and Webster? Would there have been any particular reason for him to change his name that people could think of?
Thanks
Abbie
 
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Leeds, born Hull
#2
Hi Abbie

You could put him on your tree with the name he was born with, then the other as alias or also known as.

I would say its unlikely he changed his name officially. He could have been a bad lad and didnt want people to identify him. He could have been playing away, and left a wife for another, and set up a new name and life somewhere else. It was difficult to get a divorce then unless you had loads 'o' money.
People just split, then lived in sin or married again whilst technically still married.

dave
 
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Sunderland, born Hull
#3
Hi Dave
I am beginning to think there was something dodgy about my great grandfather, as well as the name change there are also discrepancies in his date of birth. My relative in Australia found out about his name change in a diary left by one of his daughters (my grandfather's sister) and I have been sent a copy of his birth certificate which has his year of birth as 1877. This date of birth fits with the account ledger I have from when he was enlisted in the army. His age given is 20 which fits with the year of birth on his birth certificate. I also have a copy of the marriage certificate when he married my great grandmother in 1910 and his age is down as 29, which would mean he was born in 1881. This is turning out to be a very interesting family tree with some naughty ancestors!! Would they have needed any proof of identification to get married in 1910?
Thanks
Abbie
 

juliejtp

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#6
Hi Abbie,

I could be barking up the wrong tree. I've seen Robert on the 1881 census with Robert and Grace. The 1891 have Robert with Robert and Elisabeth Its seems that Robert snr may have died in 1893 and Elis(z)abeth may have remarried. I cant find a death for Grace Smelt but there is a Grace Smelt marriage in 1919 Hull spouse is a George M Webster. There is a Grace and George Webster in 1901. Graces year and place of birth is given as 1851 Hull.
What do you think?
 
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Sunderland, born Hull
#7
Hi Julie
I have found the census returns for 1881 and 1891. The Robert Smelt's found in both of these years seem to match with the year each of them was born. To me it looks as though Robert Smelt snr is no longer with Grace and has married Elizabeth. I wonder is he bothered to divorce Grace? The way it is going in my family, probably not!!! There is also one child, Gertrude and a Thomas aged 19 who are down as been his son and daughter, who are not mentioned in 1881. So, Robert jnr may have changed his name to Webster following his mother's marriage to George and may not have done anything naughty. I still don't understand why his age is wrong on his marriage certificate to Annetta Kitching?? Time will tell. This is so interesting.
Abbie
 

juliejtp

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#8
Hi Abbie,

Something Else to think about. I couldnt find Grace or George in 1891. Have now come across who I think are them.

George Massey age 39 born Rotheran (as per image) George Webster was born Rotherham.
Grace Smith age 40 born Hull occ housekeeper.

Daughter Grace Webster born abt 1895 as per the 1901 census was born in Lincolnshire. A Grace Massey Webster was registered in 1895 Caistor Lincolnshire. Robert may have lowered his age when he married as Annetta was about 13 years younger than him orignally, I've come across this with some of my ancestors and name changes.

Looking at the census image Graces surname looks like Smelt.

Class RG12
Piece 3943
Folio 52
Page 13
 

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