What’s in a name? The problem with Charles W. B. Hall.

Recently, I have been using documents supplied by Cockfield School to update the Roll of Honour.  With the bare minimum of information recorded, and over half of files from The First World War having been destroyed in The Blitz, it often proves difficult to follow each individual’s story.  However, a certain Charles W. B. Hall provided a particularly confusing case due to his ever-varying name.

On the Cockfield School Roll of Honour, Charles is listed as C. Hall.  Presumably then, one would begin researching the history of a ‘Mr Hall’.  However, in the 1901 Census, Charles is listed as Charles W. Brown.  By the 1911 Census, he is Charles Hall… deprived both of the initial ‘W’ and the name ‘Brown’.

Throughout Charles’s service records, though, he refers to himself, and is referred to, as Charles William Brown Hall.  While the names Brown and Hall are hyphenated (Brown-Hall) on one occasion (26/12/1918, Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity), they are most commonly written as separate names, and ‘Brown’ is frequently recorded simply as the letter ‘B’, i.e. Charles W. B. Hall.  This suggests that Charles demoted ‘Brown’ from being his surname in 1901 to being an additional middle name at some point between 1901 and 1911.

Interestingly, Charles’s relation to the Head of Family (William Hall) in the 1901 Census is recorded as ‘stepson’, which changes to ‘son’ by 1911.  Presumably, Emily Hall (the mother of Charles) was re-married to William Hall and led to Charles’s adoption of the surname ‘Hall’ over ‘Brown’.

It is interesting that Charles seemingly retained the name ‘Brown’ but as a middle name, rather than a double barrelled surname (due to the frequency with which the name is recorded without a hyphen, one can only assume the 1918 reference to Brown-Hall is a mistake made by a secondary party).

While it is these discrepancies that make research problematic, it is also what makes it so interesting!


Hall 1901 Census Hall 1911 Census Hall Service Record (20)