What’s in a name?

What do I have in common with pop stars? Unusual names in my family history, for one.

The pop culture world is abuzz this week with the birth of Blue Ivy Carter, her parents are pop star Beyoncé Knowles and hip-hop artist Jay-Z (born Shawn Carter), for those not in the know. Media reports suggest that although the name is unusual it holds significance for her parents and wasn’t just pulled, uh, out of the blue.

I had a doctor’s appointment the other day and the physician’s assistant who greeted me was named Ashley, my sister’s name as I told her. It’s old fashioned but seems to have made a comeback, of course with any number of spellings these days. In my sister’s case, Ashley was a surname a few generations back. (more on that shortly)

My three siblings and I were all named after a family member: my oldest brother after our father (and his father) with a typically Southern ‘III’ after his name as the third. My next brother was named after our maternal grandfather…he would note that he doesn’t recommend a full name where one’s initials spell out the name you are called, TOM in his case, which was monogrammed on his high school uniform sweater to some ribbing from his friends.

I was named for my mother, who was named for her grandmother, who was named for another ancestor. There was at least one Louise on my father’s side of the family so everybody was happy. A typical response to telling someone my name is Louise is, oh, that was my grandmother’s name. It’s not one you hear much anymore, but I’m OK with that. There was another Louise in my kindergarten class, and a Luisa in later school years, so I did have to share for a while. And it makes for some fun nicknames, Weezie, Weezer, LuLu (just don’t call me Lou!).

My sister’s name has the most storied origin in our family. She was named for Mary Ashley Royster, a maternal ancestor who lived in Raleigh, NC. Family lore says that she & her husband wanted their children to have distinctive names. So they named her children after states. Yes, states of the Union. The boys were Vermont Connecticut, Iowa Michigan, Arkansas Delaware, Wisconsin Illinois, and Oregon Minnesota; the girls were Louisiana Maryland, Virginia Carolina, and Georgia Indiana. More history here.

My grandmother was Virginia, but her middle name was not Carolina, it was an old family surname, Page, which is my middle name. I’m a fan of carrying family names through the generations, though I will admit I’m glad the state names didn’t gain traction in future generations. A couple of ancestors did try to carry it through, but note my full name is absolutely not Louisiana.

What are some of your family traditions?


About LouiseMulherin

Writer & publicist doing my best to be kind to Mother Earth.
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1 Response to What’s in a name?

  1. You know I love your family name stories! The closest we came was to making Cooper’s middle name Quincy, after the town where Gene grew up.

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