What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

by Kerry Scott on 22 June 2010

We were on vacation in Door County last week.  I didn’t blog, email, tweet, or [whatever the verb is for Facebook] the entire time.  It was fabulous.

When I got back I had a full mailbox.  One of the great things about being a genealogist is that you get real mail.  I am the only person on my street who is excited to see the mailman every day. 

One of the things in my mailbox related to Dorothy Ann Meyerhofer Smith Ackermann.  I’ve been corresponding with one of her descendants, who found her death certificate, obituary, and headstone…all listed with the first name of Louisa.  This was a bit odd, since every prior record we had of her said her first name was Dorothy, and also because her sister’s name was Louise.  There’s no law that says you can’t name your daughters Louise and Louisa, but it’s not something you see every day.

Since all of the records listing her as Louisa were created at the time of death, I wondered if there might have been a mix-up at the funeral home that led to an error on the death certificate, obituary, and headstone (since they usually do the paperwork for all three at the same time).  So I ordered the SS-5 for Dorothy, which is the form she would have filled out to get her Social Security card.  I figured that would have been completed years before her death, and she would have done it herself.  The name is far more likely to be correct on the SS-5.

Guess what?  It turns out her name was Louise Anna Meyerhofer Smith Ackermann.  It’s not even “Louisa,” it’s “Louise.”  We know her sister as “Louise.”  They appear to have the same first name.  What’s going on here?  I’ve seen families that give a child the same name as a previous child who had died, but both of these women lived well into old age.

Next step:  I’m ordering the SS-5 for the sister, who we know as Louise Meyerhofer Haskell.  I want to know if her first name was really “Louise” as well.

Oh, and the mother’s name?  Mary.  Not Louise. 

Do you have weird names in your family?

Photo by Eugene Hood Photo

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Coffin June 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

My grandmother was always Doris, in person and on all records but one.

Her birth certificate lists her as Velma.


Tina Lyons June 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

I have twins in my family tree born in 1803. One is named Laura and the other is Leura. I can’t imagine trying to call for one of them.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo June 22, 2010 at 12:15 pm

My husband is from Spain, where everyone is called Jesus, Imaculada, Maria, (even men), and other very Catholic names. Except my father in law, his family is full of people named Moises (Moses), Benjamin, Samuel, Jacoba, Sara etc. which sounds normal to me from Puritan New England. Until we had our DNA tested and Hubby’s paternal DNA is Jewish! The whole family and village are descended of Jews who converted in 1492! Very cool bit of history, and I love how they passed on the names over the centuries.


B June 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

The names… my favorite part of genealogy! I think somewhere on my Minnesota side I have a relative named Alphonzine that went by Florence. If my name was Alpohonzine and I changed it I’d pick something better than Florence! And just because it’s funny, she had a daughter named Mary Louise :)


Kerry Scott June 23, 2010 at 4:43 am

Heather—that is amazing. I love that they kept the names.


Marian June 23, 2010 at 8:28 am

The “weirdest” names in my family belong to my cousin Jimmy’s daughters. He and his wife named them with family names, which are not necessarily weird names, but make them stand out a bit. The oldest daughter is Malone, which is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. It was also my mother’s middle name before she got married.

The middle daughter is Quinn, which is my cousin’s now ex-wife’s maiden name.

The youngest daughter is Carney, which also comes from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.

Hunter is a very popular, and prized, name in my family. It’s my middle name, it’s my cousin Jimmy’s middle name, and I have both a cousin and a second cousin who have it as a middle name but are actually called Hunter. Which makes me jealous. I would rather have been called Hunter too.


mags March 31, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Just curious ………what was the follow-up on the “Louise ” & “Louisa ” . I had two sisters – and only two sisters existed and lived to adulthood , named ” Jane ” & ” Janet “.


Kerry Scott April 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm

They DID turn out to be Louise and Louisa. Weird!


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