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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree October 2018 > Your questions answered

Your questions answered

With our panel of experts Jayne Shrimpton, Mary Evans, Simon Fowler, Christine Wibberley and Anthony Marr

Change of name challenges

Q If someone has changed their name by deed poll how would that appear on any certificates or indeed how would you trace them? Stewart Barr

A For guidance on deed poll and change of name refer to The National Archives’(TNA) Research Guide at your-research/research-guides/ changes-of-name (see also my article, FT January 2017).

Enrolled and advertised deeds should provide less of a challenge than unevidenced changes; that is where a deed has been executed but not enrolled and advertised or where there is no deed at all. Many of the hardest brick walls to demolish have been built around undocumented name changes. What is frequently overlooked is that a name is not changed by any deed but by the adoption and usage of the new name. Where a person who had been the subject of a name change was asked their name by a clergyman or registrar, they would give the name which they were using, resulting in that name being recorded.

Where a marriage was to be after banns, a prudent clergyman might have enquired whether the parties had been known by any other name. Banns called in an incorrect name, albeit innocently, could render a marriage void so both names might occasionally appear in a banns register.

The techniques for finding someone who changed their name by choice (actually a relatively rare occurrence) are the same as those used for finding someone whose name has been changed by, for example, variations in spellings, mistranscription, misunderstanding or informal adoption and involve a scrupulous examination of personal identifiers including but not limited to occupation, age, relationships and birthplace. CW


For further reading to help you improve your family history skills, see Genealogy Essential Research Methods by Helen Osborn

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