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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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