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 Changing One's Name 
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Post Changing One's Name
This is somewhat related to the thread started by Don: Double-Barrelled Surnames

It seems, in the US, that a state legislature had to approve a name change. From the Army and Navy Chronicle (Volume VI, No. 3 - 18 Jan 1838):

"In the Senate [New York state] on Saturday, the 6th inst.—Mr. L. Beardsley, from the Committee on the Judiciary, reported a bill, authorizing Lieut. Alexander Slidell, of the U.S. Navy, to assume his maternal, name Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, to enable him to inherit property....

"Mr. Verplanck said he had presented the petition. The petitioner was well known as a skilful and gallant officer, and his name stood high in the literary world. It was one which, with its present associations, he should think, nothing but the strongest inducements could impel him to wish to change. He must write a great many good books, ere the name of Mackenzie would be more celebrated than that of Slidell.

"The bill was then ordered to a third reading, subsequently passed both Houses, and Lieut. Slidell will hereafter be recognized by the name of Mackenzie."

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Thu Nov 27, 2008 5:47 am
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Admiral Sir Benjamin Hallowell also changed his name - or added Carew to his existing name. He was required to do so as a condition of a will that would allow him to inherit an estate.

It is said that he 'assumed' the name. In the UK, you can use any name you like, provided it is not for fraudulent purposes, but most people who wish to make a formal change simply swear an affidavit to that effect before a lawyer who then issues a 'Deed Poll' recording the change of name. This change can also be recorded in the Close Rolls of Chancery as a permanent public record, though it is not obligatory.

It was quite common in the past for the heir to an estate or title to change his name if it was different from the long established family name, but whether this required more protracted formal procedures, I don't know.


Sat Nov 29, 2008 1:01 pm
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Post Re: Changing One's Name
susan wrote:

"In the Senate [New York state] on Saturday, the 6th inst.—Mr. L. Beardsley, from the Committee on the Judiciary, reported a bill, authorizing Lieut. Alexander Slidell, of the U.S. Navy, to assume his maternal, name Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, to enable him to inherit property....
The petitioner was well known as a skilful and gallant officer, and his name stood high in the literary world. It was one which, with its present associations, he should think, nothing but the strongest inducements could impel him to wish to change. He must write a great many good books, ere the name of Mackenzie would be more celebrated than that of Slidell.


It only took him a few years to make his new name extremely well known throughout the US. Slidell-Mackenzie was the notorious commanding officer of USS Somers who, fearing a possible mutiny, executed without benefit of trial, two crew and a midshipman, the son of the Secretary of the Navy.

His main literary legacy is the perpetuation of two myths about Stephen Decatur. The first is the invention of a quote from Admiral Nelson, supposedly calling Decatur's burning of the frigate Philadelphia, 'the boldest act of the age'. The second is the distortion of a Decatur toast into the commonly repeated 'My Country right or wrong'.

Don Seltzer


Sun Nov 30, 2008 3:19 am
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polly wrote:
It was quite common in the past for the heir to an estate or title to change his name if it was different from the long established family name, but whether this required more protracted formal procedures, I don't know.

I've seen a royal license connected with name changes (Mil's favorite Harry Burrard Neale for example).

I looked up royal license and found this:

"A royal license however, authorising a change of name, cannot be obtained unless property is involved in the change, and a royal license is somewhat expensive. On application, the matter is remitted to the Heralds' College, and it is only granted in the case of wills, deeds of entail, and other legal settlements, occasioning a change of name, as well as in cases of a grant of Arms, where a change of name is rendered necessary."

And this:

"An Englishman holding a commission in the army or navy, cannot change his name without a royal license. A Scotch officer in either, having to change his name, accompanied by a change, or new grant, of Arms, is obliged to produce to the authorities of the War Office or Admiralty, a certificate from the Lyon Office at Edinburgh, that the change has been recognized and recorded in its books."

From: Genealogy and Surnames (1865) by William Anderson, pp. 137–138

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Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:10 pm
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One name change that comes immediately to mind is the Scottish captain, John Paul, who adopted Jones as his last name.

Most sources claim that the name change may have been an attempt to avoid a murder charge. At least one source however, suggests it was John Paul's attachment to Allen and Wylie Jones, two plantation owners of Sussex County, Virginia.

Whatever the reason he changed it, the name John Paul Jones remains famous to this day.


Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:44 pm
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