Don’t like your name? Change it!

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Ulysses wasn’t born Ulysses S. Grant, but he didn’t mind if you called him that. 

My in-laws once had a spectacular argument over my mother’s name. One faction insisted it was Beverly. The other faction was firm that it was Beth. Turns out, they were both right.

My mother was named Beverly at birth, but she always hated her name. So she changed it. Now she didn’t go to the trouble of changing it legally. She just started calling herself Beth until it stuck.

The point is that people sometimes just change their names or go by nicknames, which gets confusing in genealogy. Other times, the person recording the name gets it wrong. My aunt, who didn’t like to argue with people, tended to say “that’s close enough” if someone asked her whether something was correct.

Take Ulysses S. Grant.

Ulysses’ actual name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. It was Rep. Thomas L. Hamer who accidentally renamed him. In 1839, Rep. Hamer nominated a young Grant to West Point, but he got his name wrong. He nominated him as Ulysses S. Grant. It was too much trouble to change the paperwork so Hiram Ulysses became Ulysses S. Soon, fellow cadets were calling him Sam because his new initials were U.S. – or Uncle Sam.

Goodbye, Hiram. Hello, Sam.



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