Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Name Game

Names have always interested me. I like to explore their meanings and I like to see how families use the same names in multiple generations.

Do you know why you were given the name you bear today? I was not named Kathleen for any other reason than my mother liked the name. I was meant to be called my full name, but someone shortened it to 'Kathy' when I was little, and it stuck. When I was about forty years old, I decided that I was too old to carry that childish version, and whenever I'd meet someone new, I would introduce myself using my full first name rather than the trimmed down model of it.

Names are serious business! You really have to put some effort into thinking far ahead of the present time. Children are very good at turning the most beautiful name into the worst possible , most embarressing thing they can find. Sometimes parents aren't very kind when they think it's 'cute' to name a child something like Holly Bush, Rose Budd or Kelly Green. The poor kid never live it down.

 In doing my husband's ancestral research, there are Elizabeths and Margarets and Williams and Johns and Thomases  on both sides of the family, making things difficult to keep track of. To make matters worse, it seems that the Marshalls married into the Mortland family more than twice, and there are also three different Ward families interspersed, with no relation to the other Wards. There are those in his families who used old family surnames as middle or first names, so we've got Marshall Mortland and Marsha Mortland and Margaret Mortland whose father was a cousin who died young, leaving a widow who married his cousin, a Marshall. Are you confused yet?  Try doing that family's Family Tree!

I'm grateful that I have my own name.  I don't have to live up to anyone else's reputation or better yet, I don't have to overcome a namesake's past mistakes.  No one will get me confused with another member of the bunch, if ever they try to untangle the family roots. My brothers might create some bit of confusion, being Tom and John, named for my Dad and great grandfather and his grandfather, and others who had the names further back. Thomas lives on in my nephew who bears it as his middle name.

Sometimes a name just doesn't seem to fit the child who wears it, and before you know it, for one reason or another, the kid has been given a nickname.  And what about the professionals who work in a field that complete fits their name? Stay tuned. Those are topics that I'll visit on another day.