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.