June 4th, 2013

What’s in a Name? The Fatal Effects of Name Meshing

It’s the latest trend, among celebrities and laypersons alike! Rather than adopting a hyphenated name, many couples are combining their two surnames into one, a practice that has become known as meshing. When I first encountered a story ion this phenomena I was lightly amused. Just think of the fun you could have with the right two surnames! Moon Unit Zappa might be named Moon Unit Zappaman (a combination of Zappa, her father Frank Zappa’s surname, and her mother’s maiden name, Sloatman)!

Yes, this is the general process for meshing; for example, Mr. Gatts and Ms. Harley became Mr. and Mrs. Hatts, while Mr. Pugh and Ms. Griffin are now known as Mr. and Mrs. Puffin. This is all fine and dandy, and may well be in good fun, but what are the future implications for genealogists? When couples choose to mix their surnames, create a completely new identity, and in effect eradicate an entire family line! Many consider it to be romantic, and in a sense it is, but are those couples who choose to “mesh” thinking about their heritage?

Imagine the potential for dead ends as future genealogists trace an ancestor right up until a certain time period, then their family surname completely disappears! Sure it might be easy enough to find the marriage records and figure out what happened, but it could also prove very difficult and elusive for some. Perhaps a note should be made in marriage records and applications that a name change was requested by the couple, and record what the new surname is. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I don’t think so. I’m thinking completely from a genealogical perspective, and would definitely like to know what your thoughts on the subject are.

The Importance of Surnames

There is so much information attached to surnames that is important to genealogical researchers. Surnames tell us the story of our ancestors, often point to their geographic origins, and frequently allude to their occupation. It doesn’t take much to goes the occupation of an ancestor with the name Blacksmith, but Puffin? Surnames link us to our past, if we start to disassemble them and form them into completely different surnames; there is the chance that entire family histories could be lost. If losing entire family histories sounds a bit dramatic, losing the family identity might not be.

Some might argue that the meshing of surnames creates a completely new identity for a family, one that will carry them into their future and begin a new legacy. I actually agree with that to an extent, but I feel that some link to the original and newly formed surname must be kept in order to connect the two for future researchers. How that can be accomplished I’m not sure, perhaps you may have some ideas about that.

Exploring the history of your surname and its meaning is a fascinating part of genealogical research. With all of the information contained in the surname, it will often lead us down new paths of genealogical. Creating too many forks in the road by meshing surnames could make researching particular family lines or even complete surnames extremely frustrating ion the future. Will the genealogists of tomorrow have to for the fun we have today? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!