Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Quest for a Name in the Year 1940.

This post has been brewing for weeks – ever since I spoke to my neighbour who is tracing their family tree, going back to the 1940’s and early.

For her, it started when she received a phone call from a long lost cousin doing exactly the same thing. So let the story begin.

Let’s go back to the 1940’s just after the war – in rural Victoria, Australia.

Mother Jones, married Father Smith, Mother Jones is now known as Mother Smith to the town. A child is born and named Child Smith.

Father Smith leaves, never to be seen again. Mother Smith (nee Jones) remains Mother Smith until stepfather Burke, steps up to the plate. As Mother Smith (nee Jones) has never divorced Father Smith and the general public don’t know. Mother Smith, is now known as Mother Burke as she takes the name of Stepfather Burke and child Smith is now known as Child Burke.

Is any of this making sense?

Until a passport was required child Burke had no idea. When the documentation was sighted – it raised all sorts of questions. And Child Burke went on a quest.

Child Burke, approaches Mother Burke (nee Jones) and asks for an explanation. Mother Burke (nee Jones) explains that her real name is Mother Smith (nee Jones), and the Child Burke’s name is really Child Smith and the reason why is; Mother Burke (nee Jones) never divorced Father Smith. So she couldn’t change her name. But she couldn’t live in sin, so for all intents and purposes she changed her name and Child Burke’s name to match Father Burke’s name.

Child Burke/Smith is now wondering who he really is. In the end he bites the bullet and changes his name by deed-poll to Child Jones, since he never knew his ‘real’ father and since he wasn’t related to Father Burke, and Mother Smith (nee Jones) was still living as Mother Burke. His only connection with any name was Child Jones.

The world we create can be very complicated sometimes!

(and this is a real life story!)


  1. Heh, heh...Oh yes indeed, If I hadnt seen examples of it among my own friends I might have had a hard time keeping up with you there...but in this day and age when divorce seems rampant and children are named at birth and renamed at adoption or remarriage to 'appear' proper, things like this are happening more and more... Kind of funny or maybe just lame, when you realize all that confusion down the road for those children is pretty much all for the sake of appearances...Good post as always!

  2. I know it's confusing, but it's real!!!

    That's the scary thing. Wait until tomorrow's post - you'll be even more confused!

    Thanks for the comments my fluffy little friend - glad you managed to keep up - I was worried it was too complicated!

  3. I have a hyphenated surname, but my generation only use the the last name. The double name arose from a second marriage of great grandmother. I have done some researching and I am nearly sure that to be connected back by blood, we should use the first name.

  4. Andrew - that's tomorrows topic! - you stole my thunder LOL

    This is more about a child not knowing his real identity and when he comes of age realising that what he once knew is now all different and wrong. So he takes his mothers maiden name in an attempt to become 'someone'

    Strange but true!