Friday, September 13, 2013

What is in a Name?

Those middle or first names of family members that appear out of the blue could be from relatives you do not yet know about, famous people, locations, or someone's maiden name.

And it is always possible your ancestor simply pulled the name out of thin air.

Used with permission © Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 7 Aug 2013.

The 3 Merles

                      When I read this tip it resonated with me!  I share a middle name with my mother, who was named for her maternal aunt and godmother.  All three of us have October birthdays.   My children have their own unique first names, but their middle names are after family members.  My sister used the same naming convention with her children – unique first name, family middle name.
                In doing family history research, it is apparent that there were naming conventions in many of my “branches.”  One direct line has 5 generations of Henrys, along with a plethora of Samuels, Benjamins and Williams!   We also have three women in three generations named Merle in our family tree.  Merle Davies was my great-grandmother Mamie’s younger sister.  (Mamie’s full name was Mary Elizabeth Davies Kell.)  Mamie named her daughter Merle Elizabeth.  Merle Elizabeth then named her daughter Merle Jean.  The middle name Jean came from her younger sister, Sarah Jean.
                Recently my mother revealed how her daughters got their names in her Living Story.  It seems in high school my parents discovered that the middle letters of their first names were the same. When Mom found out she was pregnant, they assumed the baby would be a boy and he would be Aaron.  Surprise!  I turned out to be a girl, so they stayed with the middle letters and named me Caron. (The nurse in labor and delivery warned her that I would hate her for the unusual spelling, but I like it!)  During my mother’s second pregnancy, they once again anticipated a boy, who would be called Donald, after my father’s cousin.  Turns out it was a girl, my sister Donna, still named for her godfather Uncle Don!   When my mother was pregnant a third time, the baby was referred to as Amos by all of us.  When the baby was a girl, she was called Amy with her middle name for her godmother.
                My paternal grandmother gave her first born son family names as middle names.  My father was the second son.  She named him Aaron Leon.  Those names appear NOWHERE in our family tree.   She is no longer available to ask the origin of that name so I can only speculate.  She was a church-going lady and so perhaps Aaron was a Biblical reference.  No idea where Leon came from.  Asked my mom, she doesn't know either.  Another family mystery!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Carol’s Living Story

                 I won a raffle prize at the DuPage County Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference in St. Charles, Illinois on February 23, 2013. My prize was a Living Story for the subject of my choosing by Janette Quinn of  In May 2013 I asked her to work with my mother Carol (Koepke) Primas and write her story.
                Janette met with Mom twice to interview and digitally record her memories in her Lombard home.  I provided many family pictures and documents to help stimulate Mom’s memory (she is 82 and still pretty sharp!) for the interviews.  Janette used the family history and photos and also conducted independent research about the places, people, activities and circumstances of Mom’s life. She also encouraged Mom’s own writing about memories and messages she considers to be most important. Finally, Janette melded it all into a book almost 50 pages long.   
                My sisters and I were anxious to hear what Mom had to say.  While I provided old family pictures, my sisters sent her questions they wanted answered and other suggestions.  Even though Dad is no longer with us, there was a lot of his information in the book as well.  Mom and Dad had been married over 50 years when he died and they had a lot of history together.
                We received the final copy a few weeks ago.  It is wonderful!  Mom has read it several times and we have shared it with other family members.   Mom’s brother Dick passed away in 2002.  His children were grateful to hear about his childhood through Mom’s story.  

Dick and Carol c. 1935

                From my perspective, it was a great family bonding experience.  I think Mom may have been a bit more open with an “objective third party” listening and taking notes than she would have been with a daughter.  It stimulated discussions about other family members which never made it into the book.  The younger generations learned about things they might not have otherwise known – like as kids, Mom and Dick jumping on the bed and breaking it.  The Living Story is a great legacy.  We had copies made for all the daughters and there are enough copies each grandchild will have one of their own as well.
                After reading the story, we are already planning additional “chapters”.  It was also noted that while Mom talked about daughters and grandchildren, no mention was made of son-in-laws!  We also decided we would like more pictures – but then we are a picture-oriented family.
                We as a family agree this would be a wonderful experience for all families!  Thank you to ISGS and Janette for this great gift!           

       is a member of the Association of Personal Historians and the Association of Senior Service Providers. Its principal, Janette Quinn, lost both of her parents at ages 55 and 60 to cancer on September 17, 1973 when she was 18. Her personal and corporate mission is to preserve families’ most valuable assets, the stories of elders in their own words, before it’s too late. She holds a B.S. in journalism from Northern Illinois University and an M.S. in management consulting from DePaul University.