He’s Not James for very Long

There’s no family Bible and there’s no birth certificate for James William Rampley who was born in Hancock County, Illinois, on 5 August 1868. It’s too early for a civil record of an Illinois birth and he apparently never had a need for a delayed birth certificate. If there was a family Bible in which his birth is recorded, I have never been able to find it.

In the 1870 census he’s listed as James Rampley and in the 1880 he’s listed as William J. Rampley (both times with his parents in Hancock County’s Walker Township).  There may be the occasional later record where he’s listed as William J. Rampley, but for the most part he’s just William Rampley–without the “J.”  He’s never referred to as James Rampley after the 1870 census.

James William Rampley was likely named for his grandfathers: James Rampley and William Rampley.

I’m not certain why James William Rampley started using the name of William Rampley, but I’m reasonably certain: there were too many other James Rampleys.  While his grandfather James Rampley died when James William Rampley was in his early teens, there were others of the same name living in the same area:  his uncle, James Rampley, and a first cousin of approximately the same age named James Edward Rampley.

A 1902 affidavit in Nancy Rampley’s Civil War widow’s pension file is the best reference that indicates the name of her oldest son was actually James William. His name is included in a list of all of Nancy’s children that also includes their date of birth.  Nancy would have had first hand knowledge of the names of her children and the special examiner appointed to take her testimony indicated he was a reliable witness in his summary of evidence he heard. The affidavit does not mention it, but it is possible that Nancy read the names and dates of birth for her children from a family bible or  a list someone had created for that very purpose–as a memory aid.

The other children have names that are all well documented in other records. The others went by their first name as given.

Except for Frances–who signed every document “Fannie.”



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