What’s in a Name?–John Adam or John Adams

In my last post, about upgrading sources, I gave an example of accessing and citing a digitized copy of a book of biographies rather than a USGenWeb transcription from the book.

The subject of the biographical sketch I cited was John A. Whetstone. John was the son of Elias Whetstone of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania and Summit County, Colorado. Both John and Elias were early settlers and successful ranchers in the Breckenridge, Colorado, area. [1. Progressive Men of Western Colorado Illustrated (Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., 1905), 444-445; digitized book, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/progressivemenof00awborich : accessed 16 December 2014).]

I “always thought” that John’s name was John Adams Whetstone, and that he was named after President John Adams. After all, he had a brother named James Madison Whetstone, [2. “J. M. Whetstone Passes Away,” Routt County Republican, 30 July 1926, copy supplied by Joyce Cusick, Steamboat Springs, Colorado.] so it’s not illogical that his family used a Presidential naming theme. And twelve member trees on Ancestry.com call him John Adams Whetstone. [3. Hints for John Adam Whetstone, Lois Mackin’s Tree (private member tree), Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 December 2014).]

However, Progressive Men of Western Colorado lists him as “John Adam Whetstone.” [4. Progressive Men of Western Colorado, 444.] This discrepancy caused me to review digital source materials I had accumulated about John–census records, newspaper accounts, and death index and Findagrave entries. All give his name as either John or John A. Whetstone. Delving into paper files, I found a copy of an article from a California genealogical journal to which several granddaughters contributed materials. [5. Peggy O’Neill Solberg with Flora Labar, “The Whetstone Families,” Hidden Valley Journal, 21:9-13.] The article give the same name as Progressive Men of Western Colorado–John Adam Whetstone.

Still, the evidence about John’s middle name was less than completely convincing. In favor of “Adams” was an apparent family naming pattern. In favor of “Adam” were two unsourced authored works. The information in Progressive Men of Western Colorado might have been provided by John, but might also have accumulated errors in the editing and publication process. The journal article contains information apparently provided by family members, but the family informants named in the article were under ten when John died, and a generation removed. [6. “California Death Index, 1905-1939,” database, Ancestry.com, entry for John A. Whitstone, 28 January 1934, citing original data from California Department of Health and Welfare. “California Birth Index, 1905-1995,” database, Ancestry.com, entries for Flora Mae Schneckenber, 20 July 1931, and Virginia Sybil Whetstone, 14 August 1926.]

Ancestry.com helpfully provided a more conclusive answer through its hints: four entries for John A. Whetstone in its “U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970” database and application images. John’s SAR membership application dated 14 April 1925 is signed “John A. Whetstone,” but three supplemental applications dated 1 March 1929 are signed “John Adam Whetstone.” [7. “U.S. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970,” database and images, Ancestry.com, entries and application images for John A. Whetstone, SAR member number 41397.] They provide evidence that I accept as conclusive–original sources with primary information from the man himself.

John’s SAR applications also provide the maiden name of his wife and the names, birth dates, and residences of his children and grandchildren, along with more, which I’ll discuss in a future blog post.