The Evolution of a Name

3 min readMar 8, 2019

What’s in a Name?

In 1922, my father was born on a dusty county road. It was a rural farming community that had lots of corn and cows. It was the best place in all of America to be born. I can’t imagine a more ideal place...unless of course you call having ten babies at home on the farm ideal. If you were lucky the doctor would come by and welcome the newest member of the family.

My father was number seven of ten. As you can imagine my grandmother was running out of names. In fact, I understand that on my father’s birth certificate it simply states, ‘baby.’

Let me qualify that down through time, his first name was obviously the only thing that was flexible. His middle name was Franklin, a good solid family name; and there was no doubt his surname was earned by blood and behavior.

The way I came to understand that his first name had been in flux all his early years… like until about age 40… was the legal documentation that kept cropping up.

Where my grandmother found the name is a mystery, although, I have my suspicions. In all my searching through the annals of time, I have not found one ancestor in my family with this name.

For sure they didn’t have books of baby names like I did when I was naming my children. But according to my mother, my fraternal grandmother, Etta was a lover of movies, although they were a rare treat. At the time of my father’s birth there was a star of the silent films, Maurice Chevalier. I don’t know for sure but I suspect that is the most likely source of his name. Hummm…

They obviously did not decide on a way to spell or pronounce it. After all it was the SILENT movies. Somethings just weren’t important on the farm. After all, they had cows to milk and corn to shuck.

My guess is my poor father went through his early life being confronted with all these different versions of the sound-a-likes and the almost-spellings trying them on and not knowing what really fit. I wonder if when confronted with authority figures, he just took their word for how they thought his name should be spelled or pronounced. After all, they were supposed to know!

I have heard that as a child he was called Marse and he had a nickname ‘Moose’ — but we won’t count that…




RB is a retired psychotherapist, storyteller, genealogists and lover of family.