Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brick Wall Solutions: Was there a Name Change?

All genealogy researchers have "brick wall ancestors" - the ones that we know their names but cannot find their parents.  One reason for the brick wall may be that the person changed his name - intentionally, or by adoption.  What are the reasons for intentionally changing a name?  A bad reputation, a criminal record, a name associated with something bad, to escape from the law or the military, to commit bigamy, etc.  It was a lot easier before 1900 than it is now, of ocurse!

I have one of them - Devier James Lamphier who legally changed his name to Devier J. Smith in 1866, 25 years after his adoption.  One of Linda's ancestors - Elijah Pickrell McKnew - deserted the US Army in 1856 and showed up in the 1860 census in the California Gold country under the name of Elijah Pickrell; he used McKnew when he married and for the rest of his life.

Genea-blogger Randy Majors ( recently emailed me saying:

" I wanted to let you know of a great brick wall that I recently solved and the narrative I wrote in the hopes that it will offer ideas for others to try:  "Unexpected Name-Change Brick Wall Solved", see here:

"The post is about a 130 year-old brick wall related to my great grandfather, which included an unexpected name change.  It was solved using a combination of clues from oral tradition, nearly futile searches, desperate hunches, and finally, DNA testing."

Randy's work is well researched, the summary is well done (although it could use source citations), and the written conclusions are persuasive and convincing. 

I just added Randy's blog to my Google Reader today, and I recommend that you do too.

Now I'm wondering just which of my "disappearing dudes" (to use Debra Mieszala's term... - hers was also a name change) might have changed his name.  I have a good candidate - William Knapp (1775-1856) of New Jersey - in mind!  Unfortunately, I can't do DNA tests unless I can find a living male Knapp descendant of William's.

Thank you, Randy Majors, for the excellent read and great example.

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