Thursday, August 2, 2012

What's in a Name?

I'm sure we've all had that moment as a child where you wonder where your name came from.

"What were my parents thinking when they named me __________ ?"
{whether with a happy tone or a tone of pure disgust}

I, of course, had that moment.  I went to my dad {at a relatively young age} and questioned the origin of my name, Ellen.  My dad looked at me with all seriousness and said, "There was this girl I used to like"...

Yes... my dad had just told me that he and my mother named me after a girl my dad used to have a crush on... and my mom backed up this story!

Growing up, I loved telling people that my parents named me after some girl my dad lusted after.  It was always a great story and made people laugh.

Okay... fast forward to earlier this week...

My family is all hanging out at my parents house because my oldest sister and her family are in town.  Somehow, the topic of our heritage came up. {I think it was something about my brother's wife being Italian since we were having lasagna} I said something about how my dad's mom was Irish and my brother disagreed.  He said she was German.  I told him he was wrong {isn't he always?} and that mom and dad had a book that showed our lineage all the way back to Ireland.

My mom said it was still downstairs in the basement on the bookshelf. {that it has been on since as long as I can remember} I run downstairs and grab the book and return to the kitchen island.

I start flipping through the book.  First there is a map of Ireland with the city my ancestors are from circled.  Very cool.  I got to read about how my great, great, great {no idea how many greats here} grandfather came to the United States in the early- to mid-1800's.  Very cool!  I continue flipping through and come across a name that has "our mother" under it... seeing as my grandmother put the book together, I realized that was my great grandmother.

My great grandma passed away in 1960-something... 
long before I was even a speck in my parents' eyes
{heck, my parents weren't even ten yet}  
So this was a woman I have never met and never really even heard about.

Well, my great grandmother's name is... you guessed it... Ellen!  I had no idea my great grandma was named Ellen.  She went by the name of Nell. {which I also didn't know}

Well I continue to flip through the book and find my grandma.  Now maybe I'm just oblivious or a horrible grandchild, but I had no idea what my grandma's full name is.  She was "grandma" and I was aware that her name was Doris... but I had no clue her middle name was Ellen!

I continue to flip and, in this book, I find out my dad's cousin's name is Sharon Ellen and her daughter is named Ellen.  Plus, my dad's sister's {my aunt's} name is Barbara Ellen.

So for those who aren't counting...
that means I'm the sixth Ellen that I found in this book.

Yes... apparently, Ellen is a family name that has been passed down for four generations now.  I asked my dad if he knew about all these Ellen's and he did!  Now... why in the world would my dad tell me I was named after some girl he used to like when my name is obviously a family name?!

Well... at least it made for a good story!

But in the future, when someone asks me where my name came from, I think I'm going to go with my great grandma rather than some girl my dad liked before he met my mom.  It seems like a much better story.

So... what's the origin of your name?



Family names are so special! My name was my great grandmother's names and I have always found that special even though I didn't know them. And on my dad's side, it's sort of becoming tradition to use the grandmother's middle name as the middle name of the granddaughters...and saying I love my MIL's middle name, you can bet our daughter (whenever we have kids!) will have it!

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