Websters in England
Coming to America
Websters in western NY
They settle in Addison
Into the 21st Century
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One of the toughest challenges that is associated with any genealogical research is in the area of names, both forenames and surnames, and associating them with the proper persons. We have already seen how the family name of 'Webster' has changed and evolved. I have witnessed these changes in my own life.
As an example, I am related to the Houghtalings, a large family that resides all over New York's Southern Tier. Today you can find the family name spelled 'Houghtailing', 'Houghtaling', or 'Hotaling', and pronounced 'Hufftāling', 'Hōtāling', and 'Hōtaling', depending on the branch of the family. My relatives in the family have always spelled it 'Houghtaling, but, when speaking to one another, dropped the 'ing' and referred to themselves as 'Houghtals' (pronounced 'Hufftails').
One other example that comes to mind is the family name of one of my childhood friends. His grandfather emigrated from Ireland and, because he did not want the stigma associated with Irish immigrants that was held in America at that time, dropped the apostrophe from his name and became Ostrom in place of O'Strom.
Given names have also evolved, quite casually it seems, to reflect personel preference, common pronunciation and/or usage, misconceptions, and even usage of 'nicknames', as can be seen in some of the following examples. It is only in the latter part of the twentieth century, with the onset of database usage and rigid government ID requirements, has this has become much harder to do.
It is also important to note that the use of old census records can become confusing because names are not always recorded or spelled accurately, from decade to decade, and middle names are almost never recorded.
My great-grandfather was named Lewis Mortimer Webster but used his middle name instead of his given name most of his life. Because of this, his marriage license records him as Mortimer L. Webster. It is also interesting to note that it also records my great-grandmother's father's name as Scott Sullivan although his given name was Winfield and his middle name was Scott.
When I was young, it wasn't uncommon for Americans to use the names Louis and Lewis interchangebly and to also pronounce them the same ('lu:is/); my parents and my grandparents did it. Therefore my great-grandfather's obituary records him as Louis, but as you can see from his tombstone, my great-grandmother had him buried as L. Mortimer Webster.
Another example concerns my grandfather, George Judson Webster.
Until the day he died, my father, a very stubborn man, insisted that my grandfather's name was George Mortimer and even named my brother George Mortimer, because of that belief. He had my grandfather recorded as George M. in his obituary (it is also interesting to note that his youngest daughter is recorded in the same document as Dorothy when in fact her name is Dolores).
In my research I find him recorded as George J. in his father's obituary and as George J. on his marriage license. This agrees with what I have learned in conversations with his daughter, his uncle, his sister, and his mother. I think I'll stay with George Judson Webster.
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