In the past it seems that a person could at whim determine what name they were going to go by. For the most part it seems that first and middle names became interchangeable. Occasionally people would use a nickname as a given name on what we now consider legal documents and wouldn’t dream of using a nickname for, like military records and census records.
William James Zuver, brother of my great-great-grandmother Mary Zuver West died in the Civil War. At least that is what his headstone proclaims. I researched him on ancestry.com to see what I could find. In the census records for the family he was recorded as William J Zuver. The military records had a James W Zuver that died on the same day at the same place as my William James Zuver. He served in the exact same company and regiment.
With this information I then turned to the NARA for military history. With him being a deceased individual there should be plenty of information concerning his death. On previous requests for an ancestor that died in military service there were letters that had been sent to the family giving more details of when and where a soldier had been injured. I filled out the form with William as the first name and James as the middle. I included his place of death and parents names. According to cemetery records he had died in Washington, D.C. at the hospital.
The search came back negative. The nice thing about negative searches for military records with the NARA is they don’t charge you for the search. I entered the form again and this time recorded it as it showed on the military record, James W. Zuver. Once again I included the death location and parents names. One thing that I did notice about the form is that you have to be brief in any further information included. There seems to be a character limit on the form.
Over the weekend I received a note in my email that they had found the Civil war record for James/William. I am anxious to see what new gems this record may hold. Back to waiting on snail mail.