Thursday, February 8, 2007

Another Peyton Manning?

My sports page today had an article about a Chicago Bears fan named Scott Wiese who made a pledge to change his name to Peyton Manning if the Bears lost the Super Bowl. On Tuesday, Wiese went to the Macon County IL Court and started the process of changing his name. "I made the bet, and now I've got to keep it," he said.

That got me to thinking - some of our elusive ancestors, especially those who just suddenly appear in the records, may have had their names changed - either legally or informally. The reasons to change a name include (at least the ones I can think of):

1) Adoption of a child by non-biological parents
2) Adoption of a child by a step-father
3) Adult changed name to honor someone they admire
4) Adult changed name for professional reasons (e.g., celebrities)
5) Formar slave added a surname if s/he did not have one
6) Former slave changed their surname to avoid stigma of previous surname
7) People selected a new name for religious orders - priests or nuns adopt a saint's name and drop their surname (e.g., Joseph Smith becomes Father Joseph).
8) People selected a new name that reflects beliefs (e.g., a convert to Islam might select Mohammed as a name)
9) Some Scandinavians selected either a patronymic name or a farm name in the 1870-1880 time frame in US and Scandinavia
10) People with a legal problem selected a different name (e.g., criminals, adulterers, witness protection)
11) People with a family problem selected a different name
12) Names of immigrants anglicized for whatever reason (e.g., simplify spelling and pronunciation)

I'm sure I have missed some here - what say you? Do you have other reasons for a person to change their name?

Have you considered a name change in your genealogy research for your UFO's (Unidentified Family Origins)?

And what about the new Peyton Manning? Is he going to name his sons Eli or Archie? Won't his descendants down several generation be real confused?


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

In my husband's line the name Nardozza was changed to Nardozzi. The story goes that during one of the world wars they wanted to appear to be from the "right" part of Italy. I have no idea if that was the reason but I have found records in both names.

Steve Danko said...

Some other reasons to change one's name:
- To have a more distinguished sounding name (my grandmother's family in Poland did this);
- Because someone just plain didn't like the name they were given at birth (my mother did this);
- Beginning in the 17th Century, Swedish soldiers were given a soldier name to distinguish among individuals with the same patronymic.