Oh, my head hurts. I’m busy transcribing away, working on the Massachusetts Indians who served in the Revolutionary War. And then I find Joseph Nicholas Hawwawas.
A long time ago, I learned that when I look at a record and think to myself, “my, that’s interesting,” a little neon light should start flashing in my brain, because one day, I will need to remember why this is interesting, and it will make much more sense. Well, I looked at Joseph Nicholas Hawwawas and I thought, a middle name, now isn’t that interesting.
Middle names weren’t even in use at this time for European men. When I see someone’s family tree and it has a middle name at this time, unless it’s a rare circumstance where it’s a last name being used as a middle name, I know that someone has gotten bad information and it causes me to suspect the accuracy of the tree.
If European men hadn’t yet taken middle names, surely Indian men who were just beginning to, in some cases, adopt anglicized names at all, wouldn’t have a middle name. After all, this is 1780, not 1920.
And then I read the rest of his entry – the small print – and it said:
Joseph Nicholas Hawwawas, Indian, pension references father and son as having service under numerous names including Nicholas Hawas, Nicholas Ovas, Joseph Nicholas, Capt. Nichols and Nicholas Hawwawhas, but did not clarify the service performed by each man under these names. Oh yes, and there is another entry for a Nicholas Hawwawas too, who was a Lieutenant. Was he yet a different man. He lived in Perry, Maine, but served in Massachusetts. But that’s not all….yet another Nicholas Hawwawas who was a St. John’s Indian living in St. John’s Maine.
Oh, my head hurts. Not only is Joseph Nicholas Hawwawas not one man, but two, three or four, he, or they, have between them 6 separate names, a total of 7 different parts, not counting Captain, which was often used as a first name for Native people in that timeframe and two ranks. And these are just the names recorded in the documents found by the DAR. How many more names did they use? How many more times are they recorded under different names?
And of course, this leads me to ask more difficult and uncomfortable questions. How many names did other Native people use? How many of these families look to be extinct today, but are humming right along with a completely different surname. And how would we ever connect those dots?
I know that in some cases, surnames changed, but when did the concept of surnames, meaning you pick one, and you keep it and you pass it down paternally, generationally, actually become widespread among the Indians? I would have expected to see this pattern by the time of the Revolutionary War on the eastern seaboard, especially the heavily settled areas. By this time the Native people had been living with and among the Europeans for more than 170 years, AND, they were fighting WITH and FOR them, unlike their brethren further removed to the west (who were fighting against the Americans) who one would not expect to be nearly so Europeanized. But, clearly, in some cases, and perhaps in more cases than we care to think about, this just isn’t true.
Will the real Joseph Nicholas Hawwawas, Nicholas Hawas, Nicholas Ovas, Joseph Nicholas, Capt. Nichols, or Nicholas Hawwawhas please stand up and state your name, for the record?
Hello, my name is Nicholas Hawwawas and this is my brother Nicholas and my other brother Nicholas…..:)