Discover your inside story. Save 20% on Ancestry DNA April 21-26

April 26, 2017

Finding an Ancestor Whose Surname Changed

We've all seen it - the puzzle family tree for an ancestor whose first name is different in different records. In one he is recorded as James, in another as Robert. But we have proof that James and Robert are the same man. How is this possible? Most often further research reveals that our James was baptized as Robert James at birth, and has been using his first and middle names interchangeably. Mystery solved!

Occasionally the name issue out to be a bit more complicated to figure out, such as when an ancestor has a widely used nickname. Such was the case with my husband's grandfather, born Thomas Leon, but called Charlie by his friends and family. Early in life he began using the name Charlie in official records. Researching various records will find him as Charlie, Charles, and Thomas.

Of course it's critically important to verify that you have the correct ancestor. Check spousal names, children's names, etc to be sure Person A is the same individual as Person B. Compare ages, and any other details you find.  It shouldn't be too difficult to prove that the man using the name Thomas in some records is, or is not, the man using the name Charlie in others. But what about an ancestor whose surname changed? That's a much more challenging genealogy puzzle.

In researching my Vollick ancestry over 30 years ago I was able to trace back from my great-grandmother to my 5th great-grandfather Isaac Vollick, a Loyalist who fought in Butler's Rangers. But I could not get back beyond Isaac. My one clue was that he came from Albany New York, but I found no Vollick individuals in New York before the American Revolution. I began tracing forward, researching each of Isaac's children (Matthias, Cornelis, Annetje, Storm, Sophia, Elizabeth, Catharina, Sarah, and John) trying to find the family's origins.

Eventually I discovered that the son John used the surname Van Valkenburg (and variants) as well as Vollick. Storm used Follick as well as Vollick so it became clear that the name Vollick most likely had not been in existence prior to the American Revolution or Isaac and family coming to Niagara as Loyalists. The pieces began falling into place. A clue here, a notation there, but the best was a 1772 baptismal record for his son John recording the surname as Van Falkenburg. The baptisms for his other children in Albany and Schoharie had Isaac recorded as Valk and Falk.

I searched land records, petitions, church records, census, Loyalist records and more, eventually proving that Isaac was the illegitimate son of Isaac Van Valkenburg and Maria Bradt, and that he eventually began using the surname Vollick. Each of those surnames had a dizzying array of variations - Van Valkenburg, Van Falkenburg, Valkenburg, Falkenburg, Van Voltingburg, Vollick, Follick, Valk, Falk, Valich, Vollack,  and more!

Interestingly enough, because I had done so much in-depth research on the entire family, I had massive numbers of documents for Isaac, his wife Mary and each of his children and even his grandchildren. Last year I decided to share my research with other descendants, so I published 3 volumes of books on the family.

I'm really pleased that my challenging genealogy puzzle which took me many years to solve, allowed me to share these fascinating stories of Isaac Van Valkenburg aka Vollick and his sons Storm and Cornelis. 

 From Van Valkenburg to Vollick: V.1 The Loyalist Isaac Van Valkenburg aka Vollick and his Vollick & Follick Children by Lorine McGinnis Schulze

8.5" x 11" (21.59 x 27.94 cm)
68 pages

Available on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca or CreateSpace

The story of Isaac Van Valkenburg aka Vollick, a Loyalist who fought with Butler's Rangers during the American Revolution. He and his wife Anna Maria (Mary) Warner settled in Upper Canada in 1782. Isaac's Land Petitions, Affidavits of witnesses regarding his Loyalty to the British Crown, letters about Mary's ordeal after American Patriots burned her home and sent the family fleeing north to Canada in 1779, and other items are found in this book. Stories of Isaac's ancestors back to the first settlement of New Amsterdam (present day New York City) and Albany in the 1620s and Mary's ancestors back to the 1709 Palatine immigration from Germany to New York are included. 

From Van Valkenburg to Vollick: V. 2 Cornelius Vollick and his Follick and Vollick Descendants to 3 Generations by Lorine McGinnis Schulze

8.5" x 11" (21.59 x 27.94 cm)
110 pages

Available on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca or Createspace CreateSpace
Cornelius Vollick, son of Isaac Van Valkenburg aka Vollick, left New York during the American Revolution. Eventually the family arrived in the wilderness of Upper Canada in 1782 as impoverished Loyalists. They settled in the Niagara area with other disbanded soldiers from Butler's Rangers. There Cornelius met and married Eve Larroway the daughter of another Loyalist who fought with Butler's Rangers. With their 9 children Cornelius and Eve carved a life in this new land. Descendants will find documents, photographs, newspaper clippings and information about Cornelius and Eve and their children and grandchildren in this 110 page Family history book.

From Van Valkenburg to Vollick: V. 3 Storm Follick and his Follick and Vollick Descendants to 3 Generations by Lorine McGinnis Schulze

Available on CreateSpace and Amazon.com or or Amazon.ca

Storm Follick aka Vollick, son of Isaac Van Valkenburg aka Vollick, left New York during the American Revolution. Eventually the family arrived in the wilderness of Upper Canada in 1782 as impoverished Loyalists. They settled in the Niagara area with other disbanded soldiers from Butler's Rangers. There Storm met and married Ester. With their children Storm and Ester carved a life in this new land. Descendants will find documents, photographs, newspaper clippings and information about Storm, his wife Ester, and their children and grandchildren in this 108 page Family history book.
 















1 comment:

Elise Ann Wormuth said...

I was stuck on my great-grandmother, known as Christiane Schulze, for a long time, until I discovered that her birth surname had been Bellmer, and she had been born illegitimately. Her mother, Sophie Bellmer, later married a man named Christian Schulze (the Christian-Christiane connection leads me to guess that he was her biological father) and Christiane assumed his surname. I don't know if she were ever adopted or not. But discovering her true surname opened up many connections that had been hidden behind that brick wall. I wrote about my excitement in my blog, http://www.livinginpast.com/2014/07/a-brick-wall-tumbles-down.html