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Helping others gather genealogy information

This week I have a couple of pleas for assistance and an answer to a question.

Thomas Holley of Thomson is working on his third Confederate soldier book. Tom would like to speak with anyone who has ties to a Confederate soldier from this area.

He is especially interested in photos, diaries and letters written during the war. The first two books Tom has written are excellent. I am excited about his third book, and I want him to have all the resources he needs to complete it. You can reach Tom at (706) 595-3268 during the day and at (706) 595-5304 in the evening.

The cemetery committee at Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Harlem is surveying their cemetery in anticipation of expanding. There are several unmarked graves in the church cemetery, and they would like to know who is buried there. If you know who is buried in any of the unmarked graves at Mt. Tabor, you can contact Michele at 556-8510 or

Jeanette asks, "Is there a reason why sometimes when you get as far back as the 1640's your last name may be spelled differently?"

There are several reasons why surnames have changed over time. When a person first came to America, the person who admitted them into the country wrote down what he heard the person say. Most of the time the immigrant didn't speak English and the immigration official didn't speak the native tongue. Eisenhauer became Eisenhower or Icenhower for example. Also parts of names were dropped. Fitzsimmons became Simmons. Sometimes the immigrant himself changed his name to sound more like their new country and so that their new American friends wouldn't have a hard time pronouncing their names.

Family feuds sometimes sparked a name change. One branch of the family would change their name slightly as not to be associated with the rest of the family. It might be something as simple as dropping one letter from the name.

Another reason a person would change his name is when he was in trouble and did not want to be found. I have an example in my own family when a man fled England to avoid trouble. He changed his name when he got here.

Sometimes a family was illiterate. They honestly did not know how to spell their own name. Every time someone spelled it for them they spelled it different. Over time the original spelling of the name was changed and it stuck.

Another thing you see in the south is former slaves changing their names. Slaves took on the last name of their owners. When they were sold, their names changed.

Sometimes the owners would even change their first names. When the slaves were freed, sometimes they would keep one of their former owner's names (usually the one that treated them the best) or just take on a new name completely. This is one of the reasons black researchers have a hard time tracing their families.

Web posted on Thursday, April 8, 2004

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Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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