How do you confirm surname changes/evolutions? Daniel/McDaniel/McDonald

+4 votes
My family has a mostly Scottish heritage as does my husband (last name Stuart).  My mother's maiden name was Daniel.  Her mother, who died several years ago, once told me that her family name started out as MacDonald, which somewhere along the line changed to McDaniel and then to just Daniel.  I have no idea when this happened, if it even did.  How do I go about figuring this out?   Thanks, Lindy
in Genealogy Help by Lindy Stuart G2G2 (2.9k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith

3 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
I believe you're asking how to discover whether your maternal grandmother was correct when she said your maternal grandfather's surname, Daniel, had been changed from McDaniel and was originally McDonald.  My maternal grandmother was a McDaniel, and I have documentation that proves it was originally McDonald.  Also, George F. Black, Ph.D., in his book "Surnames of Scotland", wrote that McDaniel is a corruption of McDonald that occurred mainly (but not exclusively) in the American South, owing to "a faint assonance" (similarity in vowel sounds) in pronunciation.

I assume you've already done census research.  If you don't find your Daniel ancestors in a particular census, look for them as  McDaniels and McDonalds.  Aside from that, here's what happened in my family.

My 4th-great-grandfather Henry McDaniel fought in the Revolution, but neither he nor his widow ever filed for a pension.  Eventually, their eldest son filed for a survivor's pension on behalf of himself and his siblings and, in order to do so, acquired a copy of the parents' 1788 marriage record.  When it came, he was surprised that it showed his father's surname as McDonald and tried to have the court "correct" the marriage record.  Apparently, his father had never bothered to tell the family that the name was originally McDonald.  Fortunately, all of that was documented in the father's pension file with the National Archives and Records Administration.

What I did to confirm the change was to look for deeds where the family lived after 1788.  Lo and behold there was a 1796 deed in which the father's surname was written both ways.  At the same time, a distant cousin of mine researched tax lists for the county where the family lived prior to 1800 and found not only Henry but also his two eldest brothers listed sometimes as McDaniel, sometimes McDonald, and even sometimes McDanald.  By the way, that was in the American South; i.e., Virginia/West Virginia.

Also, if you have not yet done so, I recommend you have a Family Finder DNA test with FamilyTreeDNA.  Once results are in, you can look for matches who have Daniel, McDaniel, and  McDonald surnames in their ancestry, try to establish communication with those matches, and find out if they have records that show a change from one to the other.  Six of my siblings and I all have FamilyFinder tests.  Wouldn't it be something if you turned out to be a match for us.
by Loretta Layman G2G6 Mach 3 (37.7k points)
selected by Living Kelts
+4 votes
I understand what you're asking as this can be more of a 50/50-ish in locating 2 different Surname changes.

My Daughter's Maternal side had a Scottish Surname of "Maclay" in the US, but I was lucky to locate that families Immigration/Emigration ship manifest that had the families Surname as "McLay".

I had then realized that someone who was processing them (at Ellis Island) likely heard the name and spelled it the way it sounded which was very common.

That's only one likely possibility.

There's others as well regarding the time period too. Meaning that there was a time when an individual could change their name (fully/slightly) simply just by using it where they were residing at OR at another/a new place of residence.

Just a bit of personal input... :-D

~Brian Kerr
by Living Kerr G2G6 Pilot (313k points)
+1 vote
What I would do is start out any particular person's profile with the Last Name at Birth, in accordance with WikiTree policy (assuming you have sources).  Then, when you document other surnames, you can add the source to the profile and add the other name in the Other Last Names field.
by Living Kelts G2G6 Pilot (518k points)

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