Happy birthday to the prince

What’s in a name, anyway?

You can’t help but feel sorry for those in The Legal Genealogist‘s family who take up the reins a couple of generations from now.

I’d hate to be there while they try to figure out the naming conventions in my family.

MaxStart with the fact that my mother’s family is solidly southern.

That means that my aunt Cladyne was really Eula Cladyne, and my cousin Bobette was Michaela Bobette, that her sister Betsy is Monte Beth, that their sister Kay is Mary Kay, and that nobody is entirely sure whether my Uncle David was born as Fred David or David Fred. You get the picture.

And then there are those closer to home.

Including Max, who is celebrating his birthday today.

Max is my nephew, second child and second son of my brother Paul.

He is one-half of the reason why I am so excited and so honored to have been chosen as special lead presenter on the 11th Unlock the Past Cruise, scheduled for 14 February – 3 March 2016.

Because that cruise is from Auckland, New Zealand, to Fremantle, Western Australia. And Max and his older brother were born in Australia.

When we at home in the United States learned that the first-born had made his appearance, but hadn’t been named yet, the phone calls and even telegrams shot off to the destination Down Under.

We suggested all kinds of names that we thought sounded good with the family name … and some that had family history attached.

When we got the official naming news, we couldn’t quite figure out the genesis of that boy’s name: Rudolf. Rudi, for short. Nothing in our German family to account for that choice, and nothing in my sister-in-law’s Russian family.

Then along came son number two. (I did mention it’s his birthday today, right?) And his name: Max.

That’s when I started to suspect it.

And when the third son was born and we found out his name, I was sure of it. The third son is Stefan.

Because, you see, the deal was that my brother got to name the boys, and my sister-in-law got to name the girls, which ended up with Paul choosing three names and Nadine one.

And the only possible explanation for those three male names — Rudolf, Max and then Stefan — is that my brother thinks we descend from the Hapsburgs.

Nadine, of course, had no such pretensions when she named the girl.

Which, of course, leads to yet another story.

I remember vividly getting the call announcing the birth of their only daughter. My brother excitedly told me her name, and I wasn’t sure I heard it right.

“Kara?” I asked. “K-A-R-A?”

“No, Tara,” he replied. “T-A-R-A.”

“Oh,” I answered. “Tara! Sherman marching to the sea! Atlanta burning in the background! ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!’”

There was total silence on the phone, before he finally responded.


My brother had never read or seen Gone With The Wind.

I explained the references, and the fact that his daughter was about to share a name with a fictional Southern plantation.

He said he’d call me back.

I’m sure the Hapsburg prince who is celebrating his birthday today will get a celebratory phone call from his sister.

Who actually ended up being named Katya.

Have I mentioned lately that I love my family?

Happy birthday, Prince Max…

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8 Responses to Happy birthday to the prince

  1. GR Gordon says:

    Southerners are absolutely the best when at coming up with the most original and melodious names. Elvis Aaron Presley, Eudora Welty and Zelda Fitzgerald, for starters.

  2. Max Geissler says:

    …and here’s me in my official hapsburg coat of arms 30 years ago ;)

  3. Patricia says:

    I love your naming story! And what a good fit Katya was for the “Hapsburg” sister… I think many of us who have taken up genealogy research have started on this quest when we were beyond our own childbearing — and naming — years. Yet I find myself introducing an ancestor here or there to my granddaughters when they are searching for a name for their babies. Mabel? Your great-great grandmother’s sister. Matilda? That great-great grandmother’s maternal grandmother. As someone who has been fascinated by names, I’ve found that genealogy is a treasure trove of names and also that there is often a pattern — like Max and his “Hapsburg” siblings — in my ancestors’ naming choices.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Katya now has a little boy of her own, and I’m looking forward to getting to tell him this story too!

  4. Missy says:

    We southerns sure relish our nicknames too. My birth name is Yvette Renee Ivey. I’ve never been called Yvette in all of 49 years of life. Missy is my nickname.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Oh yeah… we have those too all over the family tree. I had no clue, none at all, that my Uncle Ray was really Miller. Not a clue.

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