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What’s in a Name?

Folks, for almost three years, I’ve understood Emmett’s full name was Augustus Emmett Wilson.

But after reading through the information gathered on my most recent research trip, I’m not so sure. Let me bring you up to speed:

Emmett was born in British Honduras in 1882, where his parents were in ‘temporary residency’ (wink, wink), during which time his father had a partial share in a sugar plantation, and, practiced medicine.

There were (and are) no official documents or birth certificates available for Emmett, or his twin Julian, or their sister Katie (who were all born in Belize during this time.

Emmett’s parents were not required to file them either with the Crown or with U.S. officials back in 1882. In fact, the archivist I spoke with in Belize told me that it wasn’t until 1895 that such records were required (and archived). So, what did the Wilsons do to record their children’s births?

They wrote them down in the family Bible.

So, where’s the Wilson family Bible? I don’t know…yet.

Everard's delayed birth certificate. If you look midway in the document, there's reference to a family Bible as proof of his birth. Source:

Everard’s delayed birth certificate. If you look midway in the document, there’s reference to a family Bible as proof of his birth. Source:

But what I found on Friday was that Katie took down verbatim the record that was in the Wilson family Bible, and typed it up sometime in the 1940s.

One of the reasons why she did it was because Katie’s son, Everard Wilson Meade, wanted to join the service in World War II. There was a problem because Katie didn’t file an official birth certificate — she probably didn’t ‘have to’ when Everard was born in 1910.

But, she wrote it down in her family Bible.

OK. I’m getting to my point.

Here’s the image of what Katie typed verbatim from the Wilson family Bible sometime in the 1940s.

He's 'Archibald Emmett Wilson.' Archibald? The penciled-in information has several errors; this content was added later, in the 1960s.

One of the documents I found in Katie Wilson Meade’s records, typed in the 1940s. Emmett is listed as ‘Archibald Emmett Wilson.’ Archibald? Note: The penciled-in information, which contains several errors, was added later, in the 1960s.

At first, I thought something was wrong, especially given the fact the pencilled-in info does have several errors. But then, I started seeing a few other instances where Emmett’s first name is ‘Archibald’ in family documents, in Katie’s papers.

And then, check out the 1885 Census:

The 1885 Florida Census. Emmett's mother, Elizabeth, was the one who provided the information to the census-taker. I doubt she'd get her own son's name wrong. And, that's clearly "Archibald" in the blank. Source:

The 1885 Florida Census. Emmett’s mother, Elizabeth, was the one who provided the information to the census-taker. I doubt she’d get her own son’s name wrong. And, that’s clearly “Archibald” in the blank. Source:

Folks, I’ve read censuses (censi?) for years now. I know that sometimes the census takers got the spelling wrong. Hell, some of them even got the gender wrong.  But a mother isn’t going to get her son’s name incorrect. Also — for a long time I wondered why she’d name two of her sons “Augustus” (Elizabeth’s oldest son was named ‘Augustus Maxwell’)? Elizabeth was a creative, smart lady. She didn’t have to repeat a name among her children.

The next official record available, the 1900 Census has him listed as “A. Emmett”. Emmett’s obviously not using that first name; and, it is also possible he decided to change that name himself, to honor his grandfather, especially since his heart’s desire was to sit on the Florida Supreme Court bench one day. His mother had died about 10 years earlier, so if he decided to use Augustus instead of Archibald, her feelings wouldn’t be hurt. Also, the oldest son, Augustus Maxwell, always went by “Max,” and, if Emmett really wasn’t ever going to use the first name, I’d say no one really cared whether he was Archibald, Augustus, or Appomattox.

The next documentation about Emmett’s name comes from Emmett’s college days at West Florida Seminary, where his name is clearly printed “Augustus Emmett Wilson.” Augustus Emmett, like his grandfather, Judge Augustus Emmett Maxwell.

Now he's Augustus. Not that it really matters. He's still the same guy to me. Source: Argo, Florida State University Archives

Now he’s Augustus. Not that it really matters. He’s still the same guy to me. Source: Argo 1900, Florida State University Archives

The college entries are the only official documents I have with the name “Augustus Emmett Wilson” on them.

For the record, Emmett never used his first name. It wasn’t on his business stationery. It wasn’t on his business card. It wasn’t on his law degree. It isn’t on his death certificate. It isn’t on his tombstone.

Regardless of whether it was officially ‘Archibald’ or ‘Augustus’, neither it seems, ‘worked’ for him. I don’t really blame him. And I don’t think it really matters.

But I’ll tell you what bothers me a bit: For almost three years, I thought I was (at least) absolutely sure about his name. His NAME.

I didn’t see this one coming.

More will be revealed, folks. This much I know.

Categories: Book Family Interesting & Odd

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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