If you’ve hit ‘brick walls’ in family history research you might have noticed it; if you’ve got relatives trying to make a fresh start you might have seen it too. This is, of course, name changing: the process of legally altering your first name, last name, or both, so that your official moniker is something other than what was on your birth certificate.
It’s hard to be precise on this, but it does seem that this practice is becoming increasingly common. Statistics on the topic are hard to find for many countries, but for the UK – where data is available – it looks as though many more people are changing their names than in the past.
For the past few years, name changes via deed poll have increased dramatically in the UK. In 2007, they sat at around 40,000; in 2008, that figure rose to 46,000; in 2009, to 50,000; and in 2010, supposedly, to 90,000.
Only children have been given a bad rap over the years. Ever since Stanley Hall, the ‘father of child psychology’, dubbed their condition “a disease in itself”, they’ve been characterized by ill-wishers as spoiled, bratty, maladjusted, or worse.
Is there any truth to these claims? Anecdotally, many would say there is. But then, anecdotally, plenty of people used to say that mercury does wonders for skin complexion, that adding radioactive chemicals to your drinking water is great for general health, and that the world is flat (and some do, indeed, still say this).