Found your article on the evanescence of names very interesting, especially as both my husband's family and my own have several instances of people who obviously disliked their birth name simply refusing from an early age to use it. From the time my husband's ggrandfather became an orphan at the age of 9, he permanently rearranged his name. We only found out many years later that his birth name was Caleb Luther Lay. He was named for a "Caleb" in his mother's family and apparently despised the name. He became Luther C. Lay and later in life L.C. Lay. His own wife and children never knew that his name was Caleb, and for some reason they thought the C. stood for Clark, because Clark was a surname in that family. He bought and sold both land and horses as L.C. Lay, was married under the name Luther C. Lay, and buried under the name Luther C. Lay. Although we have found him in a silver mining camp in what is now Colorado in the 1860 census as L.C. Lay (that most invisible of persons...the itinerant young male without many family ties), he completely disappears in the 1870 census. Our suspicion is he wanted no part of the Civil War and managed to put himself out of harms way. By 1880, he has become a respectable married farmer in Iowa, where he remained the rest of his life. Trying to trace someone backward in the records who is determined to be someone else entirely, not for nefarious reasons but because he loathes the name his parents foisted upon him, is not for the faint of heart.In the past, I have also done some research on a couple of men who fit the description in the comment above. The past week or so, I have also had a lot of comments about names. The situation where a person decides to informally change his or her name is fairly common. This can be as simple as a nickname or as complex as changing an entire name. We often attribute a sudden name change to an undesirable event such as a criminal record, but my own experience indicates that name changes occur in much less dramatic situations. One of my Great-uncles was named Joseph Lawrence Christensen but during his whole life he was called Joe Christensen and surprisingly, that is the name on his grave marker.
Many genealogists get caught up in the meaning or history of their own or other ancestors' surnames. There are perhaps hundreds of websites dedicated to discussing the meaning and origin of surnames. It is very common to assume that those people with the same surname may be related. For some very limited use surnames, this may be true, but for most of us with relatively common surnames, our names originated at different times and different places. I am always being asked if I am related to some Tanner or another around the United States. As far as I can tell, there are half a dozen different significantly large Tanner families that show up in America from England. There is also one sizable family of Tanners that comes directly from Switzerland.
In many cultures around the world, surnames are used to designate familial affiliation. In the United States, the most common form of name transition is the use of the father's surname. But in many instances, when the mother is unmarried for whatever reason, the child may carry its mother's surname or family name. Naming patterns are one clue in establishing ancestral relationships. But all it takes is one innovative parent to spoil the otherwise perfect pattern.