Whats in a name… and who decided to change it?

I don’t know when it started but I do know that I am the product of it. The “S” added to Choate that makes my grandparents last name Choates. My grandfather Odell has the last name Choates, while his brother and sister remain S-less. How is that even possible? I don’t know but it sure will be fun to find out. Was it a typo that stuck? How many times throughout history have people changes their names if for no other more reason then that they thought that it sounded nicer, flowed better or was even easier to spell?

Such is the case of my great great grandfather Benson Samuel Harris… I got his name from my great grandmother and found him documented on the 1940, 1930, and 1920 US Census living with his wife Mary Etta (My great great grandmother) and their family. In 1910 I found it very interesting that he did not live at home with his parents (Samuel B. Harris – his father) he worked in the home of another family as a servant. Fortunately for me, his family lived very close by and was listed as the next name on the census. (Lucky Me!). 1900 However, has been a complete mystery…  I have only found ONE US Census listing a young man at the age of 9 living in PA with his parent (Samuel) in 1900. Just about everything matches up except that instead of being Benson Samuel, he is Samuel Benson… and his father instead of being Samuel B, he is Samuel D. I’m working on finding a way to prove the information from the 1910 Census is correct but I know in my heart that it is him I just can’t for the life of me explain where and why the changes happened. Gotta love those census workers and the grammar of the times.


5 thoughts on “Whats in a name… and who decided to change it?”

  1. My Cully family have done the same thing…Some members go by Cull(e)y or go without the (e). Some documents for my Porter family are Potter and Parter. Sometimes it is how the census worker heard it. Sometimes the name spelling changed over time for one reason or another.

    Great post.

  2. Girl I could write a BOOK on census workers & errors! My biggest find EVER — connecting sisters sold apart during slavery Catie & Ailey — was obscured for 10 yrs due to a piece of tape overlapping Ailey’s name & a gender error. Add to it between the 1870 & 1880 census, Ailey’s family surname CHANGED from DAWSON to DORSEY! And that wasn’t a census error but a true “change”! Just keep following the breadcrumbs & thinking WAY outside the box. Also always cross-checking multiple sources. Given the time period, pronunciation & literacy challenges it’s a blessing we find as many Ancestors as we do!:)

  3. That’s what it is the Enumerator. I would of never found my Grandmother until someone pointed it out. Her very own Death Certificate was chopped up. I like this piece.

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