Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Watson, Why Did You Change Your Name To Frederick?

Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster
Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster

My maternal great-grandfather's name at birth was Watson Emory Webster. My regular readers may know that I affectionately refer to him as "The Traveling Dentist."  For some unknown reason, Watson changed his name to Frederick Emory Webster sometime in his life.

I have two questions.

  1. Why did Watson change his name?
  2. Why did Watson choose the name Frederick when he decided to change his name?

Why Did Watson Changed his Name?

Watson had an uncle named Watson Emery Webster.  The only difference in their names was a slight variation in the spelling of their middle names - Emory verses Emery.  Perhaps he wanted to avoid confusion.


Why Did Watson Choose The Name Frederick?

I could not figure out where the name Frederick came from and why Watson chose that particular name when he decided to change his name.  Then I had a "light bulb moment."  I remembered that Watson (Frederick) Emory's father, Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster, had a younger brother named Fred Lincoln Webster, who passed away in 1877 at 13 years of age.

Ebenezer was 25 years older than his youngest brother Fred Lincoln.  By the time Fred Lincoln was born, Ebenezer already had a wife and two children.  And he and his wife, Cynthia, were expecting their third child, my great-grandfather, Watson (Frederick) Emory.


When my great-grandfather, Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster, was born, Ebenezer's brother, Fred Lincoln Webster, was only four months old.  That would have made Watson (Frederick) Emory and Fred Lincoln contemporaries in terms of their ages even though Fred was Watson's uncle.

At the time the 1870 U.S. Federal Census was taken, Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster and Fred Lincoln Webster both lived in Benton County, Iowa in separate households.  Sadly, in 1871, Fred Lincoln's mother, Amanda Melvina (Carlisle) Webster, passed away.  That left only Fred Lincoln and his dad, Moses Augustine Webster, living together in their own household.

By the time the 1880 U.S. Census1 was taken, Moses Webster was living with his son
Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster and his family.  You can see Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster listed here as well.  They lived in Kansas at the time of this census.

 

1880 United States Federal Census - EPC Webster and Family Cropped
United States Census, 1880, Otoe Reservation, Marshall, Kansas
See Footnote

So, when did Moses move in with his son Ebenezer and his family?  Was it before or after Fred Lincoln died in 1877?  I wouldn't be surprised if it was shortly after Moses' wife Amanda passed away in 1871.

If it is true that both Moses and Fred Lincoln moved in with Ebenezer and his family shortly after Amanda passed away in 1871, then Fred Lincoln and my great-grandfather, Watson (Frederick) Emory, basically grew up together as brothers, even though they were uncle and nephew.  They could have become very close to each other.  Both boys were about 13 years of age at the time Fred Lincoln died.  The accident that took the life of Fred Lincoln could have been a very traumatic event in the life of my great-grandfather, Watson (Frederick) Emory.

Perhaps when Watson decided to change his name, he chose the name of Frederick to honor his uncle, Fred Lincoln Webster.

In a letter written by Watson (Frederick) Emory's brother,
Rollin Waterman Webster, to my grandfather Debs Warren Webster, Rollin stated that Watson (Frederick) Emory (Debs' father), had indeed changed his name to Frederick.

Rollin Letter to Mr. Pendry - Watson Name Change Info Underlined
Rollin Waterman Webster Letter

I'm glad Uncle Rollin confirmed the name change so we could be sure that Watson Emory Webster and Frederick Emory Webster were in fact the same person. I do wish, however, that Uncle Rollin had given the reason for the name change. Oh well, we can't have everything, right?

My theory about why my great-grandfather changed his name from Watson Emory to Frederick Emory is only speculation, of course.  I sure wish I could ask my grandfather Debs about why his dad changed his name.  But my
grandfather passed away years ago, so I can only speculate about why Watson changed his name to Frederick.

Thanks for reading!


© 2013 Copyright by Jana Last



1 "United States Census, 1880, Otoe Reservation, Marshall, Kansas, Line #23, Dwelling #24" index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MF5H-BBH : accessed 28 May 2013), Watson Webster in entry for E. P. Webster, 1880.

26 comments:

  1. Jana,
    What a nice looking man your Great Grandfather was. Your post today was very interesting. Perhaps one day you will find more answer's and another chapter to this story will be for-filled. Thanks for sharing today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      Thank you! Yes, it would be wonderful to find out why Watson changed his name. Perhaps there are some letters or journals out there somewhere that hold the answer to this question.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  2. The research you have done makes your supposition reasonable. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Hope you can find out one day. You are very lucky that Uncle Rollin confirmed the name change. If only he had given you more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy,

      Oh yes, I'm truly thankful for Uncle Rollin's letter, that's for sure! And I'm grateful my grandfather kept this letter as well as other letters, documents and photos. They are truly family history treasures.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. Glad you have the letter telling you that he did in fact change his name. I think your reasoning as to why makes sense.
    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cheri,

      I'm so glad we have Uncle Rollin's letter too. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. "At Rest"??? That's the first time I've seen that. It sounds like Moses is dead rather than retired.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! Ya, that was odd. You're too funny Wendy!

      Delete
  5. This is such an interesting post, Jana. It supports my suspicion that in the 1800s people could easily change their names if they chose without any legal hoops to jump through. I've wondered for a while what was to prevent an immigrant from using one name in Germany and a different name upon his arrival in the U.S. This has been on my mind because I found a ship's list with Ernst Meinzen who bears every resemblance (that's recorded, anyway) to my grandfather, Henry Meinzen. I would love to find a wonderful letter like yours!

    Was the letter a recent discovery, Jana? I'm so glad you know they were the same man even if you don't know for sure why he changed his name.

    Isn't family history fun -- and full of challenges?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy,

      We've had the letter for many years. It's one of our treasured family heirlooms.

      Yes, family history is fun, as well as challenging at times. But, solving those challenging puzzles is part of the fun, isn't it?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  6. What an interesting case, Jana. I think your theory that Watson changed his name to honor his uncle/friend sounds quite plausible. Don't you wish you could know "why" for sure? I remember Tom Jones saying in a lecture that it was easier for people to change their names than their occupations. This seems like it might be a good case in point!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Shelley,

      Yes, I do wish I knew for sure why Watson changed his name to Frederick.

      I wonder if people back in the days my great-grandfather was alive could just change their names on a whim or if they had to go through any legal hoops to do so.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  7. Jana, I think your speculation is quite reasonable. In researching my family, I've found an amazingly large number of children who died in infancy. Very often, a later child will be given the same name as one of the children who died. It's a way for the given family name to survive. Watson and Frederick must surely have been close, and changing his name to Frederick would have been an understandable tribute and a way to preserve his virtual brother's memory. It sounds like a very natural human response.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mariann,

      Oh yes, I've seen this in my own family history research where the family would name a child with the same name as a deceased child.

      It's too bad Rollin didn't give the reason for Watson's name change, but at least he did verify that Watson did in fact change his name to Frederick. And for that, I'm grateful.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  8. My 3rd great grandfather's name was Emery but was also spelled Emory on some documents. I'm not sure I'll ever know the correct spelling :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Debi,

      How frustrating for you! I hope you are able to find out the correct spelling for his name some day.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  9. Terrific post! I love puzzles like this. As soon as I saw your post's title on Randy Seaver's "best of" list, I knew I had to read it. And thank you for reminding me to get back to a story I want to tell: how a Moynihan became a Monahan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jim's Girl,

      Thank you so much! I so appreciate your kind comments and good luck with finding out how a Moynihan became a Monahan. =)

      Delete
  10. I agree with your reasoning about the name change. Makes total sense to me. Interesting post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andrea,

      Thank you! It's nice to know that you and the other kind readers who've left comments agree with my hypothesis about why Watson changed his name to Frederick.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  11. Interesting post! However, you didn't say if you've determined _when_ the name change occurred. Perhaps it was easy to change your name officially back then, but family would probably have had a harder time getting used to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      Thank you. Actually, I'm not really sure exactly when Watson changed his name unfortunately. I know it was before 1896 because that's when he received his D.D.S. Doctoral Diploma. On that diploma his name was Fred E. Webster.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  12. My Grandfather changed his middle name when he became a naturalized citizen. He went from Celio Guiseppe to Celio Gordon. I have always wondered where the Gordon came from. To make it all more fun, he always went by Jay not Celio. Not sure where that came from either!

    I think that taking the name Fred was the most wonderful tribute your great-grandfather could have ever made to his uncle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sierra,

      Oh boy! Looks like you have a name mystery on your hands too. I hope you can figure out where the name Gordon came from and why your grandfather went by Jay instead of Celio too. =)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  13. My mother changed her middle name from Newell to Nadine. Maybe Newell wasn't a cool name when she was in high school in the thirties. Her grandmother was Harriet Newell Cook so I presume that's where the Newell came from. All I can figure about the Nadine is it was the same initial. We don't have any other Nadines in the family. When she was at home she was Harriet Newell Ward, later papers, including her marriage license, give it as Harriet Nadine Ward. I've never seen anything legal that changed it to Nadine. I suppose she just started writing it that way and it became her name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi T,

      Wow, now that is a mystery! Perhaps she just liked the name Nadine or she had a good friend named Nadine?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete

Printfriendly

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...