Were William and James the Same Man?


One of the quandries in my family tree is following the trail left by my maternal great-great-grandfather, William James Scott of Rutland, Vermont and Worcester, Massachusetts. He was born William James and was married to my great-great-grandmother, Hannah (Scott) Scott, as sometimes William C. Scott and sometimes William S. Scott. After Hannah’s death in 1896, he hangs around as William for a few years but then abruptly becomes James Scott and marries for a second time in 1898.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that while he still identified as William Scott, a separate James Scott appears in the records, in nearly the exact location. I’m talking just a few houses away. Then in 1900, records mentioning William cease and there is only one James Scott around. To further complicate things, William James’ nephew, William H. Scott, lives in the area and is busy leaving records nearly identical to his uncle.

Confused? I was too. Even my great-grandmother, Nellie Scott Toney, and her siblings were confused over their father’s true name. In various records left by the siblings, dad is identified as James, James William, William James, and just plain William. As part of a ProGen assignment, I created a spreadsheet to sort out all of the William and James Scotts living in Worcester during the time I believe my great-great grandfather was alive. Below is the abbreviated version.

Record Description
Evidence Given
Death record for Hannah E. Scott
Spouse is listed as William J. Scott.
Obituary for Hannah E. Scott
Hannah is called the “wife of William J. Scott”.
Birth record of Nellie Louisa Scott
This record names the parents of Nellie as Wm C. and Hannah E. Scott (Scott).
Marriage record for Nellie L. Scott
Nellie named her parents as William and Hannah E. Scott
Social Security Application of Nellie L. (Scott) Toney
Nellie named her parents as James William Scott and Hanah [sic] Scott.
Obituary of Nellie L. (Scott) Toney
Parents named as William and Hannah (Scott) Scott.
Birth record of Clarence W. Scott
This record names the parents of Clarence as Wm C. and Hannah E. Scott.
Death record of Clarence Scott
This record names the parents of baby Clarence as William S. and Hannah E. Scott.
Birth record of Frank James Scott
This record names the parents of Frank as Wm and Fannie Scott (Scott).
Death record of Frank Scott
This record names the parents of Frank as James W. Scott and Hannah E. Scott.
Obituary of Frank Scott
The father of Frank is named James W. Scott.
Birth record of Edward C. Scott
This record names the parents of Edward as Wm E. and Hannah E. Scott.
Death record of William James Scott
This record gives the date of death as 14 April 1913. It gives the parents of William James Scott as William Scott and Harriet Quon [sic].
Marriage record of William S. Scott and Henrietta A. Sutherland, 1898
This marriage took place two years after the death of Hannah Scott. The parents of the groom were William S. Scott and Harriet Quow.
Death record for Willie Scott, 1901
Willie’s parents are listed as William J. Scott and Henrietta A. Southerland.

It’s easy to see how the William and James are most likely the same man in this chart. I also have newspaper reports of his death and census records that support that supposition. But I still have the mystery of the second James Scott living and working in the same neighborhood – not to mention the mystery of why William suddenly (or so it seems to me) starting using James instead of William. And until I sort that out, I won’t be satisfied with who my great-great grandfather actually is.

Until next time,

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