Variant spellings of names is a common problem for genealogists.
At times, it was necessary for people to change their names in order to render them properly in their new language. For example, the German alphabet includes five characters that are not available in English — ä, ë ö, ü, and ß. That last one is an “estset”; it is kind of like a “double-s”. So “Lüders” in Germany became “Lueders” in America.
Often, our ancestors names appear differently in the records because census takers or those who listed the names of passengers on a ship just wrote down what they heard. And they may have been hearing names that were altogether unfamiliar to them.
Some folks changed their names as part of a family feud. I vaguely remember reading somewhere about a branch of Harding’s that dropped the “g” to become Hardin and moved to another state.
And then, of course, there was just plain sloppy handwriting; which I have no right to complain about.
Usually, I just search for all the possible spellings and accept the fact that variants exist. As long as I am comfortable that I am still looking at the same person.
But in the case of my 4th Gr-Grandpa Gary, I had to dig a little deeper. I had to be sure I am spelling his name right because HE cared that his name was spelled just right.
He cared so much that when he was 75 years old he appeared in Pension Court in the state of New York and requested a new Certificate “for the purpose of having an error in the Christian name corrected”. As far as I can determine, he was still receiving his $35 a year pension for his service during the Revolutionary War; but he just wanted his name spelled right.
So which was it?
- Enos — of Hebrew origin, meaning “mankind” and belonging to one of Adam and Eve’s grandsons. OR
- Eneas: of Greek and Latin origin, meaning “to praise” and a variant of Aeneas the Trojan hero prince of Virgil’s Aeneid
All the local history books that cover Gary genealogy list him as Enos. The DAR lineage books all list him as Enos. Most of the family trees that you find online list him as Enos.
An entry in a Gary Family Bible, which is admittedly very hard to read and therefore inconclusive, looks to me more like Eneas than Enos. And yes, it also says Geary instead of Gary. But like I said, that is the nature of this kind of work.
Also, his grave marker at Rushford Cemetery says Eneas Gary Esq.
But the deciding factor for me came as I was searching through his military pension files. I found four documents that he had personally signed.
A hundred years from now, a genealogist looking at my signature won’t learn much. But in the case of Eneas Gary, I think it is pretty clear what he thought his name was.
2 thoughts on “Was it Enos or Eneas?”
Kevin- I am reading your information on Eneas Gary as he is one of my ancestors on my mother’s side as well! I appreciate your explanation of the spelling of his name as I was confused as well. I hope you won’t mind but I borrowed one of your photos of his signature to add to my genealogy book. I have a nice account of Enos Gary and the founding of Rushford, NY, is an abstract from the history of that town, “Rushford and Rushford People,” by Helen J. White Gilbert. If you do not have that I will be happy to email it to you. Regards, Katie Werner Smith, Lascassas, TN
Hi Katie, thanks for your comments. I am always encouraged when someone finds my blog interesting and useful. I am familiar with “Rushford and Rushford People”. I already have a digital copy of that work, but thanks for the offer. The photos of his signature are from his pension file which I found on Fold3.com. There are 52 pages worth of material in that file and that was the basis for my other post about him: “Eneas Gary Revolutionary Soldier”.
Regards, cousin Kevin in Aloha, OR