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Ancestry Surnames

Ancestry Surnames


One of my good friends is writing a book about a prominent family in Maryland. He recently commented about discovering various members of that family with notable accomplishments whose last names are not the same. He remarked that many people conducting ancestry research identify with their father’s last name and don’t spend as much time researching their mother’s side of the family.

I thought about my friend’s comments in context with the recent article that I wrote regarding the descendants of my maternal grandparents. With 12 children, 32 grandchildren, and 53 great grandchildren, the numbers of Lloyd’s and Christena’s descendants are not trivial nor are their last names the same.

Years ago, I started building a family tree on Ancestry.com. While I included my parents’ siblings and tried to list my first cousins from both sides of my family, I lost interest in building each of the family trees for my grandparents’ siblings (my mother’s parents were each from a family of nine children; my father’s parents were from families of six (father’s) and three (mother’s; although her father had five children from an earlier marriage, so she had five half siblings too).

The surname discussion with my friend continued to stir up memories and thoughts about the various surnames that I knew about in my family tree. I decided to create a list beginning with my parents’ surnames and going as far back as I could. Here are the surnames for five generations.

Generation Surname Surname Surname Surname
Parents Boston Widdowson
Grandparents Boston Walston Widdowson Metz
Great Grands Boston Laird Widdowson Rowe
Walston Parks Metz Wildermuth
Great GrGrands Boston Stevens Widdowson Lydick
Laird Dougherty Rowe Bence
Walston Kent Metz Helmlinger
Parks Blake Wildermuth Harmon
Great GrGrGrands Boston Floyd Widdowson Bexon
(S) Unk (S) Unk Lydick Alexander
(L) Unk (L) Unk Rowe Stumpf
Dougherty Parker Bence Stahl
Walston Layfield Metz Elsass
(K) Unk (K) Unk Helmlinger Munch
(P) Unk (P) Unk Wiltermuth Kleiss
(B) Unk (B) Unk Harmon Snyder

I made a few observations from the list of names that I created from my ancestry chart. First, the spelling of last names is not always the same, particularly if the person recently immigrated. Second, the spelling of first names may not be the same (Johannes on a christening certificate may become Johann or John on a census report).

I personally remember family members with all four surnames from my grandparents’ generation.  Because I never knew my great grandparents (they were deceased when I was born), I don’t know any relatives with the other four surnames from that generation of Laird, Parks, Rowe, and Wildermuth. The same applies with the next generation (great great grands). I know the primary four (Boston, Walston, Widdowson, and Metz) but not Stevens, Laird, Dougherty, Kent, Parks, Blake, Lydick, Rowe, Bence, Helmlinger, Wildermuth, and Harmon (12 in all).

The following generation (great great great grands) should have 32 surnames of which I would know the original four. On my father’s side, the county courthouse burned with many of the records from that era destroyed which is why several of the surnames have Unk (for unknown) next to them. Notably, they’re none of the original four, so I suspect I haven’t worked hard enough to see if I can find the names through another source.

My friend was right. I think we usually don’t know much about the generations before us, particularly if the surname isn’t the same. I’ve known for a while that my fifth great-grandfather, John Lydick, fought in the American Revolution. John and his wife, Mary, had 13 children. I have a feeling that there are thousands of Lydick descendants (including several with the last name of Boston) who can claim their ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War. By the way, John Lydick was born in the colonies sometime between 1739 and 1748 (several conflicting sources). His father, Johann Leydig or Leidig, was born in 1715 in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

Creating a family genealogy is tough. At some point, because of the sheer numbers, you establish boundaries for how much you intend to include.  Because of issues related to written records storage (like fires, wartime looting, etc.), most confirming birth or census records only go back so far.

I am glad that my friend’s comments led me to find all these additional surnames in my family tree. I think I will take my time in building the additions to the family tree created by the other descendants of my ancestors. After all, I have no plans on writing a family history, and I have a tough enough problem staying in touch with my generation.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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