Family Secrets – A Change of Name

There are many occurrences where it is hard to trace family from past generations and one of the reasons was that it was so easy to change names.  Poof! And you are now someone else.

I have been looking at old documents from my husband’s mother who died 19 years ago. She was born in England and her given name was “Lilian” on her birth certificate.  The occupation of the father is listed as “plumber and glasier”. (A glazier is a glass-cutter; glasier being a variation of the spelling.)  He was in trade and Lilian’s mother was from a well-to-do family who did not approve of the match.

The family came to Canada when Lilian was a small child and changed their surname to “Johnson” a common name.  The story Lilian told about her parents is that they didn’t want anyone from the old country to trace them in Canada as they wanted a new life without the stigma of being in trade.  If they had become wealthy in Canada, then they would have contacted their relatives, but that never happened.

When Garfield, my husband, was born, his birth certificate shows his mother’s maiden name as “Lillian Johnston”.  There is now a double L in her first name and a T in Johnston.

Years later, when Lillian needed her birth certificate for her old-age pension, she told us about the family deception, and fortunately she knew the original family name.

People sometimes changed their names to avoid debts when they moved to Canada and sometimes they changed spelling to make names simpler.  For many people, it was a fresh start when they came to this country and a new beginning called for a new name.  It is no wonder that people who study genealogy today encounter such difficulty tracing relatives.


About Linda C Butler

I write pioneer stories from the Herb Lake Ghost Town. Please do not re-blog this material or re-publish without my permission.
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