What’s In A Name? Locating Name Change Records

Do you need proof of a name change? The process of changing a name requires petitioning, or asking, the court. This means that specific forms need to be completed and filed at the court house, and, once the forms have been filed, there will be a court hearing addressing the reason for the name change. Since name changes do require a court hearing, the records for name change petitions are filed and can be viewed by the public, unless the court determines there is a reason for the information to be sealed.

Name change requests typically occur in a court located in the county where the requester lives. Depending on the state court system, this will be a court with general jurisdiction, such as district court or superior court. In most states, once a name change has been approved and signed by a judge, the records are filed with the county recorder office. To obtain access to these records, check with the county to determine the exact process. Some counties such as King County in Washington State have an online system, while other counties may require written requests. Name change records available online are unofficial. If you need an official copy of the record, most counties require the request be made in person, at the recorder’s office.

Interestingly, information about pending name change cases can sometimes be found in your local newspaper. For example, in Santa Clara, California, certain forms related to the name change request must be published for 4 consecutive weeks before the final hearing.

20 thoughts on “What’s In A Name? Locating Name Change Records

  1. terri, traci

    how can you stop someone from changing there last name please help. this person is just trying to make his kids mad

  2. Nathan Post author

    Traci – You probably could not prevent a name change unless you could show the court involved that the motive for the name change is to avoid a legal responsibility.

  3. debbie

    My son had a name change when he was an infant after his father died, i have since lost that information and now he cannot get his passport. what do I need to do to get that ?

  4. Jeff

    I had a name change when I was 12 years old in New York, and do not have the paperwork to prove it. Is there a way to claim those papers?

  5. Dennis

    Are there any records of name changes from the 1800’s? I have a theory about my great great grandfather changing our surname, but I am hoping to find some official document to confirm it.

    1. Nathan Post author

      Name changes occur through either marriage or by a court order. Where to look really depends on the jurisdictions where the person lives ( or has lived ). If this is a woman ( whose name may have changed because of a marriage ) check with the office that handles marriages licenses. Otherwise, check which courts handle name changes in your area.

    2. anne mackay

      Want to find the original name of my father He was born in Illinois 1915 I believe
      he changed his name from George Edwin to Edward George Johnston Maybe 1940″s ?

      Thank you

  6. Daniel

    My daughter who lives in another state told us that she would be changing her name and to not try and find her. What if something happens to me or her father. How could we contact her? Would we need a private investigator?

  7. Jim

    My father was given his Italian father’s name at birth, but never used it. At some point during his life he completely changed it to the Anglicized version, but I can find no record of it. I now need to connect these two names as the same person. Ideas, anyone??

  8. Bill

    Name change rules vary widely by state and time period – most states are quite bureaucratic about it these days, but in the past many places such as California allowed you to use whatever name you wanted as long as it wasn’t for fraud, movie stars changed their names to sound cooler or hide their Jewish ethnicity, and lots of people everywhere Anglicized their names. If you wanted official records, you’d go to a court, but it really wasn’t until the Motor Vehicle people got snarky about it this century that you had to use a formal process.

  9. Scott

    How do you find out about someone who changed their name in say Colorado? Is it public record and do you have to know the county where it took place or can it be done state to state?

  10. kwame

    my name was changed when i was 17 and i never recieved any paperwork stating it had changed im 19 now and had to get all my documents switched over to my new last name. the only problem is my GED has my old last name and i have to get it changed for college but the need the court order stating my name has changed. where can i get the court order saying it has been changed?

  11. joshua catt

    my last name was legally changed back to my birth name about16 yrs but the last name on my birth certificate still has my adoptive last name how do I get a copy of the legal forms showing the courts records of this name change so i can get my birth name on my birth cetificate

  12. Margaret

    I really hate name changes.. I’m 19 now, trying to work. I got my last name changed before I could walk, but for some reason, it didn’t affect my social security number.. So while I’m going around as a “Collins”, my social security is “Norton”, and I cannot even request a new copy, as my ID and birth certificate both say “Collins”. Does anyone know how I could fix this? Social Security says I have to aquire a copy of the name change document, and I was just checking if anyone knew of the accuracy of this

  13. Victoria

    Im searching for my son
    RYAN MALIK STEPTER) dob 03/24/1997 who was adopted (closed) Adoption, So the information I had recieved was very limited to my acknowledge his Adopted Parents reside in SANTA CLARITA, CA and may have kept His First & middle Name but changed last name. I believe he may play soccer. any ideas where how to search i have tried google searching but no luck. please email with any ideas.

  14. Rochelle

    Is it possible to find name change records from the 1930 s? I am doing some genealogy and we think my father in law changed his name when he turned 18 but he is not around to ask. I know that a birth record is not really available because home births of African-American children were rarely recorded. We only have census records and Army enlistment papers to verify he existed. any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

  15. Eric

    There are two basic ways to change names. 1 is called the Usage Method, and just means if you use a new name in everything you do, then, over time, that becomes your New Name Legally. There is no “record” of the start of Name Change by Usage.
    The second way is often called Legal Name Change. If your father in law used Legal Name Change, then there WILL BE a court record of that event. You look in the highest state court, in the County where he lived at the time he changed it. Look under his old name, as that would be the name he used to file his Name Change Petition.

  16. Victoria

    I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR Y SON WHO WAS TAKING FROM ME BY DCS IN LONG BEACH CA IT HAS BEEN 11years since the last I was able to see him he will be 18 next year in March 24th if anyone knows how I can find him his Name was changed after adoption was finalized RYAN MALIK STEPTER was what name he had for 6 1/2 years please email me I’m at a dead end so other ideas would be much appreciate thank you god bless


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *