Name Changes Can Be Awesomely Confusing

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A man in Eugene, OR recently changed his name to "Captain Awesome." The former Douglas Allen Smith Jr., an unemployed cabinetmaker, says his name change was inspired by the nickname of a character on the TV show "Chuck," who had been named that by his father to build good character.

A Lane County judge approved the name change after being assured by the now-Mr. Awesome that he wasn't changing his name for fraudulent reasons. The judge also allowed Mr. Awesome to start using a smiley face between two arrows as his new signature, though Mr. Awesome has said his bank is refusing to accept that new signature on the grounds that it's too easy to forge.

This name change is obviously on the fringe of what you're likely to run into in your life, but people change their name all the time - mainly women who have gotten married or divorced. If you get a call from someone and you don't recognize the name or number, that doesn't mean it's an automated call or a misdialed number; it could simply be someone from your past trying to reach you. An old colleague or former schoolmate may be trying to reconnect for the holidays.

You can, however, find out who this person is without opening yourself up to an annoying attempt to sell you siding or rain gutters for your apartment, by using a reverse phone lookup. Enter that number into a free reverse phone lookup web site and find the name and address behind that number. Public records are available for millions of people, and you can use that to verify who is trying to contact you.

You can also use public records to find people by name. Perhaps you'd like to be the one doing the reconnecting with old acquaintances. Enter a name and location and see what records are available. While you can't find Santa's phone number in public records - unless someone has legally changed their name to Santa - you may just find a phone number to call or an address to send a holiday card to, and get back in touch with a long lost friend or relative.