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Deed Poll Helpline

A comprehensive guide to changing

your name by Deed Poll in the UK

About Deed Polls

Changing Your Name

Reasons for a Name Change

Tracing a Change of Name

Time Saving Tip: The quickest and easiest way to change your name in the UK is to

Apply For Your Deed Poll Online.

Why trace a name change?

In recent years it has become increasingly popular for people to investigate their family history and build a family tree. When tracking their ancestors it is easy to come up against dead ends due to a person changing their name. This often leads on to the quest for some sort of a record of that persons name change in order to delve further into the past. 

Contrary to popular belief there is no central body in the United Kingdom which holds a record of all name changes that have occurred over the years. For this reason it is very difficult to trace any previous name changes of one's ancestors.

How do people change their name and has this changed over the years?

Under English law it is permissible for a person to take a new name without drawing up any kind of formal record at all. However this sort of 'name change by usage' has declined in recent years due to the impracticality of it - official organisations demand evidence of ones name change. This can still be a problem though when tracing a name change that happened less recently in a time when this kind of name change was acceptable.

In the past many people who changed their name did not want to draw attention to it. For example, at the time when having a divorce was uncommon and in some ways a taboo, some people took their new partners surname to allow them to appear as married, and any children to appear legitimate.

Over the years various means of recording a change of name have evolved and developed but it is impossible to define the number of name changers who used them. What can be said is that judging by the number of enquires the National Archives receive regarding this matter, it was often the case that a proof of name change either never existed or no longer does.

The more common way of changing one's name is by using a Deed Poll document. This provides proof of a persons name change and can be used to update a persons records including the name on their passport. A person can change their name to almost anything they want provided they have no fraudulent or deceitful motives.

How can a name change be traced?

From above, we can see that tracing a name change is no simple matter and in some cases can be almost impossible.

When a person changes their name by Deed Poll the option exists to have the name change 'enrolled', for safekeeping, in the Supreme Court of Judicature. Deed Polls that have been enrolled at the Supreme Court remain there for a period of several years and are then transferred to the National Archives at Kew in Richmond, Surrey. Therefore the location of a relatives Deed Poll will depend on when they enrolled their Deed Poll.

National Archives

If a Deed Poll was enrolled between 1851-1902 it will be held a reference to the name change will be made in the close rolls which cover  from dates 1204-1903. These rolls are held in the National Archives at Kew and can only be searched by former name.

Between 1903-1999, if a Deed Poll was enrolled the indexes to the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature will need to be checked in the National Archives, Kew. The change of name can be searched for by former name or by new name. If the search is successful, certified copies of a persons Deed Poll can be bought.

Royal Courts of Justice

If the change of name happened more recently, from 2000 onwards, the National Archives will not yet hold the records. As the 2000 index is currently being prepared for transfer the Royal Courts of Justice will need to be contacted at:

Royal Courts of Justice

Room 81


London, WC2 A 2LL

Tel: +44 (0) 207 947 6221 or +44 (0) 207 947 6000


Another possible method of tracing an enrolled Deed Poll is the London Gazette. From 1914 onwards if a Deed Poll was enrolled in the Supreme Court, the name change first had to be advertised in the London Gazette* . Again, this does not necessarily mean all changes of name were recorded in the London Gazette since not all Deeds Poll were enrolled.

For those who did not have their Deed Poll enrolled it is possible that their name change was also recorded in a newspaper. Therefore it is worth looking through local papers or contacting a local library to find out which newspapers they archive.

Likelihood of Success in Tracing a Name Change

Since enrolling a Deed Poll was not (and continues not to be), an obligation, and in fact adds to the cost and inconvenience of a name change, the majority of people do not have their Deed Poll enrolled. Therefore most people who come to the National Archives looking for an enrolled Deed Poll, leave unsatisfied.

Finding references to a name change in local newspapers is also fairly unlikely as many people who changed their name in the past did not particularly want to draw attention to it.

*A specialist publication of Her Majesty's Stationery Office in which public notices and legal notices are advertised.

Time Saving Tip: The quickest and easiest way to change your name in the UK is to

Apply For Your Deed Poll Online.

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