My Great Great Grandfather, Charles Smith, was a real puzzle for awhile. There were family rumors floating around that his name had originally been McGowan and that he had changed it to Smith to join the Union Army when he was underage. I had assumed for awhile that he had just anglicized “McGowan” and therefore spent a lot time looking for the wrong name! Researching in records for NYC is hard enough without not having the correct information to begin with!
A few years ago, one of my mother’s cousins said that he had papers that explained the entire issue! The papers were affidavits that Charles Smith had to file in order to receive his Civil War pension. In the papers he explains that his birth name was Smith, but that his half siblings were named McGowan and that he took their name in order to join the army when he was underage. His sister, Mary McGowan Powers, testified on his behalf. So.. that part of the mystery was solved.
The interesting part of the story concerns his mother supposedly searching for him.. and not being able to find him because he changed his name. Based on the fact that Charles states that he was often called Charles McGowan growing up, and that he enlisted with his brother.. makes me think that “McGowan” should have been the first name that his mother looked for! So either the account of her looking for him was alittle “off” or Jane was not the brightest woman!
You can find the full report on this family here:Goodwin, McGowan, Smith Families of NYC and Wallingford, CT.