What’s in a name?

Familytree

“Oh, are you related to our manager? That’s his name.” The lady in the shop asked after I gave my surname for the GiftAid form.

“I don’t know. It’s not really my name,” I said.

She looked confused and then a bit cross so I hurriedly continued: “I mean, it is my name  but I haven’t had it for long. Well, six years this year. Since I married. It’s my husband’s name…so not really my name.” I realised I was rambling, especially as her eyes started to glaze, and stopped almost mid-sentence. She did the classic smile and nod, internationally recognised as the sign for: “Oooookkkkk, moving on.”

I took Mark’s surname (or partially so) when we married for a number of reasons – not least because I thought it would be fun to try out a new one after 30 odd years. I kept my surname for professional purposes so, aside from the occasional letter and filling in GiftAid forms, not that much has changed.

It isn’t really something I think about often but when I do say the new (ish) one (if I remember, which I sometimes don’t), I just don’t feel connected to it. It feels like I could be called anything and it would be the same. I don’t suppose it is all that strange but it feels a bit disconcerting, especially as it’s Freya’s name too – and I obviously do feel connected to her.

I was never all that bothered by my surname until one Saturday afternoon, during a quiet moment at work, my boss had me type it in to a genealogy site. I figured my family had always lived in the same place since time began but this simple search discovered Greaveses born as far away as South Africa – and even my great grandad was born in Ireland.

Suddenly they became real to me.

I caught the bug then and carried on researching, linking all these different people back to me; my tree growing taller and broader every week. It was like I suddenly felt the weight of them as they came to stand behind me. I can tell you all sorts; where they were born, what they did, how they died. It makes me feel connected to it (and them) in a way that I just don’t (or maybe can’t) to my new name.

I don’t think it’s blood related. It’s my mum’s 70th birthday today and for her main present my brother and I hired a genealogist to confirm the rough picture we had of her maiden name linage, which I then made into a book. It is interesting stuff but in an abstract way. I don’t feel particularly connected to that side of the family – even though it’s half me.

So it’s purely the name. And I know it is just a name. But it’s my name.

Does anyone else feel the same? Does it really matter not to feel connected to it?

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10 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. It’s taken a while for me to get used to Jordan being my surname as like you I stated my maiden name professionally. My PhD was obtained under it so I thought it best to keep it for that reason. In all other aspects I’m Jordan as is BattleKid but it still sounds strange saying it, writing it or answering to it after 32 years as something else. So no, you’re not alone hun x

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  2. My married name is very common, people ask if I’m Welsh, so hard to feel connected. On the other hand I feel connected to all the names that stand behind me. Step forward if your name is Boardman, Spelman, Stansfield, Ellwood or Hartley.

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    1. That must be nice. I don’t know why I don’t feel connected to my mum’s side, especially as I have photos of them. All very strange. I worked with a Spelman (Debbie) once.

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  3. Ooh, so interesting that you should post this – I’m actually thinking of changing my surname. I went double barrelled when I married but kept it after we split (it sounded cool!). But now I feel I should drop the ‘married’ section. Thing is, my maiden name doesn’t really connect me to the rest of my family (long story) so I’ve toyed with the idea of using my middle name as a surname. Everyone thinks in crazy but to me, my first and middle names are the only things that are truly me and they’re the ones that connect me to my family, not my last name. I’m sure by now you’ve glazed over like the lady in the shop…!

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    1. Not at all! And I don’t think you’re crazy. I know someone who created an entirely new surname when they married which both she and her new husband took (this was for many reasons). If you feel connected to your middle name, I’d change it.

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