In honor of my Irish roots on St. Patrick’s Day, I am writing about one of my family mysteries: my third great-grandfather who was rumored to be Irish and who had a surname change around the age of 50.
Andrew Jackson “Jack” Bartholomew Carroll was born in about 1823 in Knox County, Tennessee (according to his death certificate). In his early years, he used the surname Bartholomew. At age 27, Jack was on the US Census in District 13, Jefferson County, Tennessee, along with his first wife, Mary Brown, and their son, Joseph. Ten years later, he had remarried to Amanda Gainus. They lived in Springfield, Robertson County, Tennessee. In 1870, Jack and Mandy had eight children living with them in Barren Plains, Robertson County.
Here’s where things get strange. On the 1880 census, the family is now using the last name Carroll. (Spelled Carrol or Carrell as well.) Jack would have been 57 years old, with the name change taking place sometime in the last 10 years. All of his children, including children now in their adult years, adopt this name too. The new last name is used on census records, marriage records, death records, and all official documents.
This makes it tough to track down Jack’s parents. There was a Joseph Bartholomew living in Knox County on the 1830 census with a male age 5 – 9. Joseph is a good candidate to be Jack’s dad, or at least adoptive father, since Jack named his first born son Joseph.
Joseph Bartholomew died on 18 May 1831 in Knox County, Tennessee. From his death notice, we can gather he would have been 58 at the time of Jack’s birth, which is possible, I suppose, since there was also a lady age 30 – 39 in the household.
Knoxville Register: May 25, 1831, Wednesday Died Knoxville last Wednesday evening, Jos Bartholomew, aged about 66 years, an old Revolutionary War soldier.
As for the name change, let’s talk about theories. I’ve heard A LOT of theories.
- I was about 10 years old when I did a family tree project for school. I remember going to my grandparents house and writing down names of ancestors. When it came to the Carroll family, I was told that two brothers came from Ireland with the last name of Bartholomew. One changed his name to Barnum and started the circus, and the other changed his name to Carroll. It was an exciting story for a fifth-grader, indeed, but it didn’t add up with historical facts about the real Mr. Barnum.
- It was rumored that when Jack moved to Robertson County, he opened a store in Greenbrier. His customers had a hard time spelling, pronouncing and remembering his name, so he changed it to something easier: Carroll. There are no documents to back this up. On tax lists and census records, there is never a mention of Jack owning a store. A distant cousin tried to find this store in old records and couldn’t.
- Another theory is that Jack was hiding from someone or something. A cousin found an old court record from a few years after Jack started going by Carroll that also identified him as Bartholomew, so it doesn’t appear he was trying to hide his name change. He also lived in Robertson County during the name change, and if I was hiding from someone, I’d probably move far away, or at least out of the county!
- Jack’s grandson, Harvey, thought the name change happened when Jack immigrated, but we know that’s not the case either.
All hope is not lost. I might not ever know the reason for the name change, but I might be able to find Jack’s family. Ancestry DNA has helped me find other “lost” family members, and I’m confident it could help solve this mystery. Jack was my grandmother’s great-grandfather, so testing her DNA would be the best option, however, she has passed away. The next best option is to test one of her brothers or sisters, which I hope to do one day. They live a couple of states away, so it complicates logistics. My dad’s cousin did take a DNA test recently, so it is possible for us to find answers through her test. Until then, I’ll keep searching for clues!
As for Jack, he lived in Robertson County, Tennessee until his death on October 27, 1910 at the age of 87.
If you are related to the Bartholomew, Carroll or Carrell families, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.