I'm trying to find my Grandfather's original name.

He changed it when he became 18, back in 1941. He was an orphan and never told anyone what it was before he changed it. My dad always said Bair was not far from the original spelling -- he just didn't want it to be the same as someone who didn't want him.

My grandfather passed away last year and I want to know more about my history and his. Can someone please help? Thank you.

  • 2
    What country/state are we talking about? Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 19:12
  • 2
    Welcome to Genealogy.Se, Brenna. Very Big Kid has already asked what country and/or state you're talking about, and I'm sure other people will ask questions as we try to help you. You may also see that people edit your question (or you can edit yourself) as things develop. To start with, I've just tidied up the formatting a little to make it easier to read.
    – user104
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 19:14
  • 2
    First questions from me -- do you know if he changed only his surname or his first name(s) as well? Does he have any unusual first names? Is there anyone of his generation still alive that you might talk to in the family?
    – user104
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 19:17
  • 1
    You say he changed it at age 18, because "he didn't want it to be the same as somebody who didn't want him". You also mention he was an orphan (no living parents). So did he change the name from the surname of his foster family (as soon as he could, presumably because he didn't like them), which would also have been different to his birth surname?
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 1:17

1 Answer 1


If a person changed his name in 1941, then the public records should (seem) to show one person "disappearing" and another one "appearing" at the same place.

In your case, Grandfather's decision to change at a relatively young age (18) reduces the number of traces that will have been left by his former self. But the same basic principles apply.

You need to find the location of the first official reference to his new name. There is a good chance that references to the old self will be found in the same place. That is, if Fred A was working in a bakery in Manchester at age 18, then chances are that Fred B went to school in Manchester until he was 12. (Unless he was so determined to escape his old identity that she shifted across the country at the same time as changing his name.)

Genealogy often involves looking backward for traces of a person who could be an ancestor. Your task is the same with the added complication that you don't know the surname; but you do still have a given name (probably), a date of birth (even if you need to approximate) and a place.

When you find 6 Freds who might fit (or 10 or 50) then you need to look for traces of each of them after 1941. As you locate a story about a person of the same name as the child being demobbed in 1946, then you know that he was not the one who changed his name; so move on to the next. When you have only one candidate left, you have (possibly) found Grandfather.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.