52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 6 — Same Name

I think this is a pretty neat one.

For the five immediate generations prior to me, one woman or person who was AFAB was given the same middle name. For the last generation before me, it wasn’t planned, but it still worked out that way. My mother (who does not share the name — her sister does) gave me a different middle name, a beautiful and meaningful one that I cherish and treasure.

Before those five generations, it was a family surname. So for the sixth generation back bore me (seventh if you include me), it was her surname, and presumably her father’s surname. Now things get a little tricky and hard to figure out. Her daughter, the first to carry the name as a middle name, was adopted. We don’t know if she was adopted by the people who are showing up as her parents on Ancestry, or if they were her biological parents. We do know that her mother died when she was a child, and that she was adopted and raised by her mother’s best friend. We don’t know exactly when, but the vague consensus seems to be when she was young. She was raised by Mennonites, and while we don’t know if her biological relatives were Mennonites (if those who show up as her parents on Ancestry were her adopted parents), but I am inclined to believe so because the woman who raised her was her mother’s best friend, and as far as I know, Mennonite communities are fairly insular.

The details are extremely fuzzy from here on out, though they were already partially unclear.

Her middle name was supposedly named after a family friend, I believe a minister, though as time goes by, it seems she may actually have been that she was named after her mother’s friend. I was told that the minister was an excellent person, and that he was very well loved in his community. Now I don’t remember how I got from point a to point b, but I was either told the name of the minister, or I found it out while doing genealogical research (which is what I think happened). But now I’m much less sure of that. All of this is compounded by the fact that I can’t consistently afford to keep up an Ancestry membership, and travel for research is not possible for me, so I’m limited to what I can or did find, what I’ve printed out or saved back ups of, and otherwise to the times when I can keep up my Ancestry membership. When I was initially doing the work on this, I was also very new to genealogy — though really, I still consider myself new and inexperienced with it, and I trusted those little green Ancestry “hint” leaves more than I should, as well as the connections on find a grave (though I will say that I still often find that the latter has more information regarding relatives). If I am ever able to afford a professional genealogist, this is the primary mystery in my family I would hire them to solve, if I can’t manage to figure it out on my own. I especially want to know if the people who are listed as my third great-grandmother’s parents are her adoptive parents, or her biological parents. I’ll honor them all the same, but I’d like to know who her other set of parents are, as well, so I could honor them as well, and trace their family history back, too. And I’d also like to know for sure if the reverend was who I thought he was.

Even if I find out he is, there may be no way of knowing for sure, whether that’s who she was named for, or whether it after was her mother’s best friend, or someone else entirely. And yet, I won’t discount the possibility that I might find out someday. My Ancestors have put tons of information into my hands in the most remarkable ways — a transcript of an interview a relative gave to her son regarding our Ancestors, a relative popping up out of the blue and offering to give me information on our Ancestors, information from a prayer card a relative found, and a relative who historically gave, let’s say curated, versions of our family history opening up to me and telling me things they’ve never told anyone else all come to mind. So I’d love to know, and I have to make my peace with maybe never knowing, but I also might find out someday. The blessings of the Ancestors and Beloved Dead are immense. They never cease to surprise, amaze, and delight me, and I am always thankful for them and for their blessings.

So let me finish this by saying that because I am planning on changing my name someday, though mercifully I can do it without changing it much, my current plan is to add the first name of the minister to my middle name. I love my current name and do not want to change it. It’s beautiful and it connects me deeply to place, it allows me to be rooted to where I belong, and it has symbolic meaning. But it also sounds fairly feminine, which is not conducive to my future. If I’m right about the name of the minister, I think it sounds pretty good in conjunction with my given middle name, and masculinizes it to my ear, which would let me keep my middle name, as well as adding the new one. Additionally, his first name was also the name of my biological maternal great-grandfather, who I never met, but who was much beloved. It is also the middle name of his father, and the first name of one of his great-great-grandfathers. It’s also the middle name of someone else who has had a huge impact on my life.

I was already named in a roundabout way after my grandmother, her father, and — by extension — my great-grandfather’s father, and his grandfather (one of whose other sons also shared his name, as did his son). So in adding the first name of the minister to my name, I will not only be strengthening the connection of being named after my grandmother and her father’s family, but I will also be — in an even more roundabout way — naming my self after my grandmother’s mother’s family, and continuing their naming tradition, after a fashion. And I’ll be able to do it without having to give up the beautiful, blessed, meaningful middle name my mother gave me.

I know that my aunt feels a sense of sadness and responsibility that the name will die with her, and while she will still view it as her being the last to carry that name — and she is technically right. But I feel that if I do that, in some way, I’ll be able to carry the name on. That’s important to me in general, and also because I am the last/youngest of my family for two generations in some branches, and three generations in others (and possibly more for some of those branches, depending on whether those relatives children head children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren). Like my aunt, I feel a sense of responsibility — perhaps slightly more, as I don’t think my aunt would consider herself an ancestor worker — because I know that for generations I am the last of my line, even though I am absolutely positive that not having children is the right thing for me to do.

S.R., E.R.H., E.R.T., E.R.S.C.I., M.R., and all the other R.’s and M.’s among my Ancestors and Beloved Dead, you are honored. I respect you. I am grateful to you. Many of you have living relatives who remember you. You are loved. We tell your stories. We tell what we know of you.  Thank you for all your many blessings.

May you always be remembered. May you always be blessed.


#52 Ancestors