Monday, October 19, 2015

An Open Letter to the Six-Generations of Sprawling Medieval Family I am Studying at the Moment

Dear family: please stop having all the same names, over and over.

I mean seriously: can you *imagine* what these family reunions were like?

"Clara! You remember your uncle Bernard, don't you?"

"Really? I thought you were dead. I mean, I know that's not polite, but I swear I heard you died at sea."

3 of what would ultimately become 5 pages of ArghIckHate
"No, that's my cousin Bernard you're thinking of."

"Ah.  That explains it. My apologies."

"And who is this fine young lad hiding behind your skirts?"

"Oh, that's my son Bernard. But since that's his father's name as well, we call him Bernardino until he comes of age. To avoid confusion, you understand."

"Of course."

Seriously. This has been my entire weekend. And that's with the aid of someone who wrote a 135-page article on one century of this family's history. Bleah.


Anonymous said...

Hee, my father's family does this too. My son has the same name as my father and my cousin and my paternal grandfather (and my cousin's daughter has the female form for her first name, and I have it for my middle name!). It goes back much farther. And the nickname for the child changes when they become adults.

delagar said...

My nephew has the same name as his uncle. When they're around each other (often enough) it's maddening. My SIL said to me (when my nephew was about a year old and this problem first became seriously reared its head), "It never occurred to me how annoying this was going to be."

I laughed and laughed at her.

But really, how can that not occur to you?

I guess if you're not a writer. Maybe not.

Good Enough Woman said...

My son's name is the same as my husband's, which also happens to be the same as my father's whose is the same as his father's. My grandfather is dead, but we often have the other three in one room (the youngest has a diminutive nickname, so that helps a little bit).

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

My hubby's brother used his middle name to differentiate himself from his dad (with the same name) for his first 29 years, but when he met his wife, he started going by his real first name. When we all met her, we had no idea who she was taking about when she said his name. We were like, "oh you mean Doug?" It's been a weird ten years with all of us calling him Doug, always, and her calling him by his first name always.

My dad's family for something like 14 generations used the same first name for the first born son or daughter -- using a feminine cognate when there was no son. It was stunning finding that out.

And then in Shakespeare, you really have to have a handle on the relationships between all the royal descendants in order to keep them straight in the histories. SO MANY HENRYS, RICHARDS, and EDWARDS! I feel for you!

undine said...

Ha! I love this. What you have here is a medieval Goodfellas. "All the men were named Peter or Paul and they were all married to girls named Marie."

Anonymous said...

I've got the same thing in my research. The family I'm looking at loved the name Hugh so much, that I've so far got a least one pair of brothers (!) both named Hugh, after their father.

It's infuriating!

Historiann said...

HA-haha! I hadn't thought of that clip, Undine, but it's perfect.

Having just finished a book that required some genealogical research in early Canada, I'd say I've had it up to here with the Jean-Baptistes and the Marie Magdaleines. So I can relate, but fortunately my exposure to genealogical crazy was limited as the Canadian women I write about were mostly nuns!

There's another reason to appreciate religious people, Notorious. They're not perpetuating the name game, at the very least.