Bamboozled November 21, 2016: Woman’s long journey to get her birth name on her driver’s license


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Maryann Brandreth has been trying to get the name on her New Jersey driver’s license to match her other identification. (Alexandra Pais/For NJ Advance Media)
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, proper personal identification has been a necessity.

To help ensure New Jerseyans had accurate and valid driver’s licenses, the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) instituted its 6-point verification system.

To get your license, you’d need to show a combination of documents, and each document is assigned a number of points. If your documents added up to six points, you’d get your license.

There’s no rule that says any specific document is required, as long as you use ones on the MVC list and the points add up.

But some misinformation and a lack of common sense made the point system a headache for a Long Valley woman.

Her name is Maryann Brandreth. Or Mary Ann Brandreth, or Mary A. Brandreth, depending on what document you examine.

She was born Mary Ann Lisa, and that’s how her name appears on her New York State birth certificate.

“Ever since I was five and started writing, my name has been spelled Maryann,” Brandreth said.

A $23 million project to replace an aging computer system should help beleaguered drivers who’ve endured computer crashes and waits at state motor vehicle agencies.

Brandreth says she’s been Maryann for most of her life.

In 1967, she graduated eighth grade as Maryann. Same for her high school graduation in 1971. Her first driver’s license in New York State was issued as Maryann.

And that’s the name by which all her bank accounts and college courses knew her.

In 1991, she relocated to Morris County. Her first Jersey license had her name as Maryann.

When she married in 1992, she changed her last name. When she got a new license, her first name was still Maryann.

By 2008, there was a change. When she renewed her license, it was changed to Mary A.

“I’m not sure I even noticed it until after I left MVC,” she said. “The only repercussion was that I started receiving junk mail as Mary A. Brandreth.”

In 2012, she tried to have the name changed by using her passport — which says Maryann — as her main identification.

“They made me go home to get my birth certificate and would not make the change stating they had to use the name on my birth certificate,” Brandreth said.

She wasn’t happy but she did as she was told.

The difference in name started to become a problem.

When she had foot surgery in 2013, she was admitted to the hospital as Mary A. Brandreth because the hospital had to use her license for identification rather than just use her insurance card, which has her name as Maryann.

Later that year, she was appointed power of attorney (POA) for her mother, but the bank had to use Brandreth’s license for identification, so the POA was for Mary A. Brandreth.

Then travel became an issue. Brandreth can’t use her license as identification because it wouldn’t match her passport or ticketed name.

So when she went to renew her license in October, she wanted to make the change. She brought with her all her documents. All said she was Maryann, except for her birth certificate, which says Mary Ann.

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A close-up of the passport and the driver’s license, which feature different names. 

“I spoke to the supervisor and had my recently issued passport with the hologram, my Social Security card, my marriage license which shows Maryann Lisa, debit card, credit card, bank statement, credit card statement, Verizon Wireless bill, letter from New Jersey unemployment insurance addressed to Maryann, a copy of my paycheck and employee ID card with photo,” Brandreth said. “I was told none of it was legal except my birth certificate.”

She said she asked the supervisor how the passport and Social Security card couldn’t be legal, and was told “anyone can get a passport.”

That didn’t make sense given that a passport counts for four points in MVC’s six-point program. A Social Security card is one point.

She said the supervisor said she couldn’t accept a “mishmash of documents” with different names, so Brandreth suggested she take six points of documents that use the name Maryann.

The birth certificate was necessary for the license renewal, Brandreth said she was told.

“I was told to renew as Mary A. and change my birth certificate,” she said. ” And it doesn’t matter that I held New Jersey licenses as Maryann in my maiden name as well as my married name. They changed the rules a few years ago that they have to go by the birth certificate.”

But that’s not actually an MVC rule.

In the end, for the renewal, Brandreth said, they accepted a “mishmash” anyway: her current license said Mary A. and the rest of the documents said Maryann.

And she went home with a license that said Mary A.


Brandreth wasn’t happy, but she looked into changing her New York State birth certificate to make the problem finally go away.

In a conversation with the state’s vital records department, she learned she’d have to present baptismal certificate or school record from when she was younger than 12, Brandreth said.

“Unfortunately I am almost certain my baptismal certificate is Mary Ann,” she said. “I have contacted the parochial school I attended 50 years ago, however, no one is returning my calls.”

The rep at vital records said if Brandreth can’t find the school records, her only choice would be to legally change her name — for $250.

Looking for a solution, Brandreth contacted Bamboozled.

While a state senate committee will hold a hearing later this month about long lines and waits at the MVC, here are six issues plaguing the agency.

We reviewed her story and shared it with MVC.

In short time Brandreth spoke to someone who could help.

The MVC rep told Brandreth to scan and send in all her documentation with both names so MVC could review the case.

In a couple of days, the rep called her back.

“She asked when and which agency I would like to go to get my license corrected,” Brandreth said.

The rep explained she ran the case by the deputy director of administration, who was fine with the change and offered to waive the $11 fee, Brandreth said.

“She remarked that this should never have happened and speculated that when they implemented new rules back in 2004, a clerk may have unknowingly thought she had to go by the birth certificate and that is how this whole mess started,” Brandreth said.

MVC contacted the manager at Brandreth’s MVC agency of choice, and when she arrived, the manager made sure she received the correct name on her license.

“I still cannot believe I’m Maryann again,” she said. “It’s been so long and such a journey. It’s like a weight has been lifted. I have some cleaning up to do with Mary A. but she is almost gone.”

Fare thee well, Mary A.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of Stay informed and sign up for’s weekly e-newsletter.