When and how did my fa­ther change his name?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - QUESTIONS & ANSWERS -

QI am try­ing to find out some de­tails about my late fa­ther. He was born Ernest Wil­liam Raby in Beth­nal Green on 13 Fe­bru­ary 1910, but when he mar­ried my mother in Oc­to­ber 1942, his name is shown as Ernest Wil­liam Wil­son. When and how did he change his name?

No one else in the fam­ily seems to have fol­lowed suit. His younger brother Ben­jamin Raby was still known by that name in the early 1950s. Can you sug­gest where I should start?

I have a copy of a New Tes­ta­ment pre­sented to ‘SIR EW WIL­SON 2090005’ by the Na­tional Bi­ble So­ci­ety of Scot­land, pre­sum­ably at the start of his war ser­vice in 1939. Pe­ter Ernest Wil­son

Aper­son is free to change their name at any time, so long as there is no fraud­u­lent in­tent. No of­fi­cial no­tice is usu­ally re­quired but a deed poll doc­u­ment can be used to make the change more eas­ily recog­nised, but it isn’t legally nec­es­sary. Those us­ing a deed poll have the op­tion of pay­ing for it to be reg­is­tered with the courts (known as en­rolling) and if en­rolled a no­tice must also be pub­lished in the Lon­don Gazette.

Be­cause of the ad­di­tional cost, many were never en­rolled and leave no other of­fi­cial trace. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, any­one in­tend­ing to change their name was also re­quired to pub­lish a no­tice in the Gazette, whether a deed poll was in­volved or not. The Gazette is avail­able to search on­line for free at thegazette.co.uk, but I can find no such no­tices in your fa­ther’s name.

In the 1938 elec­toral reg­is­ter for Step­ney, Ernest seems to be liv­ing with his brother Ben­jamin at 17 Louisa Street, both with the sur­name Raby. So the change seems to have hap­pened be­tween then and when the New Tes­ta­ment was given to him in 1939.

I would sug­gest ob­tain­ing a copy of your fa­ther’s Sec­ond World War ser­vice record to see if there is any men­tion of his name change. The record would still be held by the Min­istry of De­fence and can be or­dered at a cost of £ 30. More de­tails can be found at gov.uk/get- copy-mil­i­tary-ser­vice-records/overview.

Chang­ing his sur­name might in­di­cate a fall­ing out with the Raby fam­ily, or per­haps he knew of an is­sue with his parent­age. If you have copies of his birth and mar­riage cer­tifi­cates, look for clues – par­tic­u­larly who he named as his fa­ther when he mar­ried in 1942. Antony Marr

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