Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Uncertainty of Names

This is not about changes in or variant spellings of last names. It’s about changes in given names. It seems that some of my grandfather's siblings’ given names changed during their lives. I don't know if their parents recorded the names at birth and then changed them because they didn’t like them; or if the individuals themselves changed their names when they were adults. I believe the latter is so for at least one of his siblings.

Henry Carl and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen had 15 children. There were 13 known live-born children, one stillbirth, and one child I have been unable to find. Here are 13 of the children and what I've found about their names:

Henry Carl was
Henry on the church confirmation record (1884)
Henry on the 1880 U.S. census (1880)
Henry on marriage records (1896)
Henry Carl in an obituary (1958)
Henry C. in cemetery records (1958)

William was
William in a death notice (1888)
William in cemetery records (1888)

Hannah was
Hannah in the 1880 U.S. census (1880)
Hannah in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Hannah E. on marriage records (1907)
Hannah Elizabeth on her death certificate (1910)

Edward was
John Henry Carl in his church birth record (1880)
Edward in the 1880 U.S. census (1880)
Edward in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Edward in the 1910 U.S. census (1910)
Edward in his obituary (1911)
Edward J. C. F. on his death certificate (1911)
Edward C. in his cemetery burial record (1911)

Isabella was
Marie Isabel on her county birth record (from a transcription) (1880)
Marie Bellette on her church baptism record (1882)
Belle on her church confirmation record (1896)
Isabella on the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Isabella E. on 1920 U.S. census (1920)
Isabelle in one obituary (1967)
Isabella in another obituary (1967)

Walter was
Walter on the county birth record (transcription) (1882)
Walter on his church baptism record (1883)
Walter in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Walter on his marriage record (1906)
Walter in a news article about his marriage (1906)
Walter in a news article/obituary (1907)
Walter in cemetery records (1907)

Minnie
William [??] in the county birth records (transcription) (1885)
Minna in the church baptism record (1891)
Minnie in the church confirmation record (1900)
Minnie in the 1900 U.S. census record (1900)
Wilhelmina in the 1910 U.S. census record (1910)
Wilhelmina in her husband’s obituary (1926)
Elizabeth W. a newspaper article about her 100th birthday (1985)
Elizabeth in cemetery records (1986)
Aunt Mina to all her nieces and nephews

Lula was
Lula Bernesa in the county birth record (transcription) (1887)
Lula Bernice in the church baptism record (1891)
Luella in a newspaper article (1899)
Luella in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Lula in the 1910 U.S. census (1910)
Lula on marriage documents (1911)
Luella B. in the 1920 U.S. census
Lulu in her husband’s obituary (1960)
Lula B. in an obituary (1979)
Aunt Lula to all her nieces and nephews

Bertha was
Birdie in the county birth record (transcription) (1888)
Bertha in the church baptism record (1891)
Bertha in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Bertha on marriage records (1906)
Bertha on her death certificate (1918)

William Carl Robert was
William Carl Robert on the county birth record (1892)
William Carl Robert on his church baptism record (1896)
Robert in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Robert in the 1910 U.S. census (1910)
William Carl Robert on marriage documents (1914)
W. C. Robert on his death certificate (1979)
Robert in an obituary (1979)

Jacob was
Jake Carl on county birth record (transcription) (1893)
Jacob Increase on his church baptism record (1896)
Jacob in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Jacob in the 1910 U.S. census (1910)
Jacob I. on marriage records (1916)
Jacob on his death certificate (1917)
Jacob I. in an obituary/news article (1917)
Jacob in cemetery records (1917)

Carl Nelson was
Karl Nelson in the church birth and death record (1896)
Carl Nelson in the church birth and death record (transcription) (1896)

Naomi was
Nomi Faye on the county birth record (transcription) (1898)
Naomi Fay on the church baptism record (1900)
Naomi in the 1900 U.S. census (1900)
Naoma in the 1910 U.S. census (1910)
Naoma Faye on marriage records (1916)
Naomi Faye in an obituary (1979)
Aunt Naomi to all of her nieces and nephews

Some of these are obviously variations in spelling. Some are nicknames. Some are reversals of first and middle names. Others are definitely different names. Did the parents change the names? Did the children, as they grew to adulthood, choose and call themselves by different names? I don’t know when the “legality” of names began and when name changes had to be processed through courts, but probably after these changes were made.

With so many given name alterations in this family, it leads me to wonder if my great-grandfather, Henry Carl Meinzen, also changed his name.

From various records and documents, I know that he was born in Hanover/Prussia in 1837, was a carpenter, and came to America in June, 1866. I have been unable to find him on a passenger list, but I found this:

Could Henry and Ernst be the same person?

This is obviously a transcription, but I've seen a scanned image of the original passenger list and this transcription is accurate.

Except for their first names, this information could describe my great-grandfather, Henry C. Meinzen.

Of course I won’t assume they are the same person. But still, I wonder. And I continue to search for more information.

Do you have experiences with first name changes like these? Have you made a connection between a known ancestor and an uncertain name? If so, how did you find the connection?

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