Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's In a Name?

Names have helped me immensely in my search for ancestors. This morning one helped me make an emotional connection.

I've been spending the last few days researching Thomas Earles and his son, Michael, my paternal great grandfather. I was gathering and filing documents. But I was bored with them. I was telling my mom last night that I was secretly hoping that someone had run away to join a circus.

What made matters worse, and is hard to admit, is that Michael's second daughter, Evelyn, my father's mother, was adopted, and I was feeling a disconnect to her adoptive father and mother. Why research them if we're not blood-related? This was the first time I'd ever had that thought. I know that my father wants to know both lines. So that's what I was doing, starting with what I knew. But all of a sudden I wasn't interested in the family who generously raised Evelyn as their own.

I needed something to wake me up and have some fun with them. But I woke up early this morning with nothing new.

 Then I crossed the bridge over the Merrimack River back into Hudson.

It was 6am and the sun was just starting to come up. A new thought was emerging at the same moment.

"Pay attention to the names."

father, Michael Earles, 
daughter, Evelyn Michaelle Earles. 

Michael, having accomplished a lot in his life, found himself without a wife and children when he was 50-years-old. He adopted Elizabeth after marrying a woman 20 years his junior, and 5 years later, at age 55, adopted Evelyn. I found it incredibly sweet to incorporate his name into hers, Michaelle being the feminine version of Michael.

The tradition continued with Evelyn's only child:

son, Michael Earles Carlson.
 grandson, Michael Earles Carlson
 granddaughter, Kathleen Michaelle Carlson
 great grandson, Kenneth Michael Cross

Kathleen Michaelle Earles

I have a vague memory of my sister complaining about her middle name. I hope she likes it now.

All of my children but my first carry a family name either as a first or middle name as a way to remember their ancestors. They are thrilled to share those names and are curious about the original "owners". In our joy of being a first-time parent we just wanted a unique name for our first daughter. I now wish we'd seen the importance of using a family name to help her remember someone, too. Maybe I'll find an Allison or a Lydsay someday. Maybe she'll start her own tradition with her children. We'll see! 

I'll continue to write my great grandfather's story. It is quite impressive. But nothing that Michael did could have impressed me more and made me feel connected so quickly than to start a family name tradition!


  1. I had never been into genealogy, but on a recent vacation to Salt Lake City, I found myself in the Family History Center. I discovered the repetition of names running throughout my maternal grandmother's side of the family ... and the fact that my great great grandfather was a doctor!

    I'm glad that you were able to pass that piece of history down to your children. What a wonderful gift!

  2. You know what's really fun is getting into my Norwegian ancestry! The first name of the father is attached to a "son" or "datter" for boys and girls in the same family. Example: Carl Jacobson has Marie and Joseph as his children. So the kids tell anyone who asks what their names are that they are called Marie Carlsdatter and Joseph Carlson! Isn't that crazy?!! I love it. Thanks for stopping by Tammy. If you want any help getting started let me know. It's a blast.

  3. That's so cool Betsy! In my Dad's family, most of the boys have their father's name as their middle name. The girls miss out on that, though. In my generation, me and my sisters named one another god parents and often used the name of the godparent as a middle name or used a name close to the godparent's name as a first name - I have goddaughters Lauren and Jillian Lori! It's a pretty cool feeling!
    Love your stories!

  4. Thanks Lori! Interesting that the older I get the more significant small things like a name become! You have quite a conversation over at Lifeforinstance today. Can't believe you're talking about crying! Me of all people joining in!

  5. Hi Betsy,

    Wanted to stop by today and check out your blog. I love the theme, it's so beautiful.

    My uncle did the genealogy on my Mom's side and a distant cousin did the genealogy on my Dad's side some time back. I would have to go back through them both to refresh my memory on what I learned since it's been quite a number of years since I read them both. But I did find them interesting.

    One of the founding fathers of the Methodist Hospital here in Houston was a relative and also delivered my Mom. I also have a relative that signed the Declaration of Independence so I thought that was pretty cool. I also learned that Ronnie Milsap, the country western signer, is also a very distant cousin as well.

    You can find some really neat things about your family by researching your ancestors. I find it fascinating myself.

    I was also named after my Grandfather but my Mom chose to spell it the long way which is why she decided not to give me a middle name.

    Okay, that comment was long enough so sorry about that. Kind of got to rambling a little.

    Enjoyed the post and I always liked to find out why kids were names certain things. Guess that's why your post caught my eye today!

    Hope you are enjoying your day!


  6. We always make a point of using a name to honor and help remember family members. I think that it is pretty cool to do it.

  7. Hi Adrienne!
    Loved your comment. Thanks for reading. You're so lucky to have someone doing the family history in your family. You at least know where to go when you want to "refresh your memory"! There are so many people who would love to have that place to go to.
    Could you send me your email? I tried to message you on Twitter but there has to be a mutual follow for it to be sent.

  8. Thanks Jack. We were slow to start the practice. My kids are actually thrilled to share ancestors' names.


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