Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Matri-Name Game

Jasia lives up to her Creative Gene name by introducing the concept of Matrinames in her post "What's Your Matriname?" to the genealogy blogging world. She's been reading The Seven Daughters of Eve and Bryan Sykes actually suggested using the surname of the mother as a Matriname. Jasia goes a step farther and suggests using the oldest known female ancestor in the matrilineal line as a second surname.

Thomas MacEntee has made several suggestions for naming conventions also in his post "The Name Game - Family Name Schematics in Different Cultures" on his Destination:Austin Family blog. Thomas discusses several naming conventions that honor both a mother's surname and a father's surname.

If we had all "finished" our genealogy research and had hundreds of generations back in time, wouldn't we all have the (Jasia's) Matriname = "Eve" (no surname known - perhaps "Eve --?--", or "Eve Adamsrib", or "Eve Godsdaughter"?). Or perhaps the name of one of the "seven daughters" of Eve that Sykes identified?

If we used Bryan Sykes suggestion, then my name would be Randall Carringer Seaver.

If we used Jasia's suggestion of using the oldest known matrilineal line surname, then my name would be Randall Martin Seaver (Sarah Martin, born 1792 in NJ, died 1860 in Ontario, wife of John Putman, mother of Eliza Putman, mother of Mary Jane Sovereen, mother of Georgianna Kemp, mother of Emily Auble, mother of Betty Carringer, mother of moi). What if I found another generation or two while working my way back to "Eve whats-her-surname" - would I have to change my legal name to, say, Randall Smith Seaver (if Sarah's mother was a Smith)? That would sure make the lawyers happy, eh?

My preference would be to adopt a fixed naming convention that honors the four grandparents surnames. That would give genealogists a good lead as to what the ancestral names are. In my case, my name would be Randall Seaver Richmond Carringer Auble (grandson of Fred Seaver and Bess Richmond and Lyle Carringer and Emily Auble).

My preference is that the names not be hyphenated, although hyphenating couples makes a lot of sense - as in "Randall Seaver-Richmond Carringer-Auble." It would be clear, at least to genealogists, who married whom, eh?

If one wanted to use the father's surname as the "last name," you could turn it around and make it "Randall Auble Carringer Richmond Seaver." That wouldn't be too hard to carry on and a kid would always know what his grandparents' names were! Note that now many kids just know them by "Grandpa" and "Grandma," if at all. I can just see my 4 year old grandson trying to remember his 5 names! Hey, their brains are just waiting to be filled with useful stuff at that age.

How would the spouse of a person be known? Would a wife take her husband's last name (and if so, which one)? Would they be hypenated too (as in "Leland-Seaver" or vice versa)? Would the husband take the wife's surname also in a hypenated fashion (which makes a lot of sense to me, actually).

What if we get to the "end of the line" of known ancestors, like my Sarah Martin? Would she become "Sarah Unknown-Unknown Unknown-Martin"? Or "Sarah ????-???? ????-Martin" in our databases, at least until we identify her parents and grandparents?

What about adopted, sperm-bank or foundling children? Or out-of-wedlock children? Or people who never had a last name? Would they use adopted family names, or have some sort of indicator attached to their names that might stigmatize them?

Why should we stop with only the four grandparents? Why not 8 great-grandparents or even sixteen great-great-grandparents? Let's see, Randall Sovereen-Kemp Knapp-Auble Vaux-Smith Spangler-Carringer Oatley-White Rich-Richman Newton-Hildreth Smith-Seaver. Maybe that's too many? Even a genius would have to carry a pedigree chart at all times for identity purposes!

There's a lot to think about, isn't there? Implementing this idea would be difficult, I think, since we have about 2 billion names in genealogy databases and at least 6 billion people living in the world at this time. Maybe we could ask the United Nations to force adoption of a universal naming convention. And modification of legal records and vital records and other databases. It would probably take them 50 years just to agree on a naming convention and more time to implement it. And another 6 billion people would be born by the time they made a decision, and would need their name changed.

In my case, I'd have to modify about 40,000 entries in my databases with the modified names, whatever system was mandated. And we would have to re-submit all of the data to the different "Mother of All Genealogy Databases" in order to bring them up to date. Then we'd have to modify all of the genealogy web sites. Even worse, would all of the original records have to be changed in the vital records, church records, census records, etc? More work for county clerks and lawyers, I fear.

Frankly, a serial number tattooed on our body somewhere, or put on an implanted microchip, might make more sense, I think. At least it would cut down on identity theft! But people would have a better idea of their family names.

This is probably too big a decision for a brave, energetic group of genealogy bloggers, with nothing better to do on a rare Sunday without football or baseball games, to make by ourselves! Do you think our Congress-critters would even understand what we are recommending? Do we?

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