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Thursday, July 20, 2006

What's in a name?

What's in a name?

Family names have been used in society for well over a thousand years and has been used to designate who we are, who we are related to, where you were from and in some instances it designated your vocation or place in that society. For the vast majority of societies this has been paternally driven.

For myself, my surname is Adams. But this is not who I really am. Especially when you consider that the father that raised me changed his name from Helbig to Adams as a child when his mother remarried. So from this instance there is already a change from a geographical naming perspective from a lineage descended from Germany to that of one descended from Britain. This is irrespective of the fact that my father was definately of German blood and not British. So in effect this name change does not designate who he truly was.

I am not an Adams, nor am I a Helbig. I am not related to either of these families in any way other than what is written on my birth certificate. I do not have Adams or Helbig blood running through my veins, I have another man's, another family's blood inheritance. I have a genetic link to some faceless and nameless individual.
I do not look like my father or any member of his family in any shape or form, I do not even act like any of them. Even though I carry their name, it is only in name, as from all other perspectives it is as if I was adopted by this family. In some ways it almost seems fraudulent to even call myself an Adams. Perhaps the importance I place on family names is more important being a male, as traditionally (but not always), when a woman married a man she accepted his family name.

We all have a genetic family tree that remains unbroken throughout the ages. Half of my genetic family tree is missing. My paternal link to my history has been forcibly removed by a medical procedure.

Perhaps I should remove my family name and just be known as Damian. This naming dilemma is compounded in my children. The effects of donor conception practices do not stop with one generation, but continue on into the next and subsequent generations.


Rel said...

Hi Damian,

Really enjoying reading :) It's great to see you here.

When you say that you feel fraudulent carrying the Adams name, I can totally understand. I feel the same about my surname. I wish I had a surname that i could really connect to. I have seriously thought about dropping my surname, but I don't want to upset my dad. I have thought about adding T5 to my birth certificate, but that would mean changing all of my cards and documents.... Hrm. Still, it would reflect part of the obscured truth that i do have. People laugh when I call my father T5, i wish they wouldn't, it's pretty sad to think that's all I may ever have to call him.

Keep up the posts! xo

Unknown said...

adding you to my links

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DI_Dad said...

Names are a funny thing. As you both state your feelings I can understand your dissatisfaction at carrying a name that has no blood connection to you.

As an amatuer genealogist I have come to think of surnames as merely a larger identifier as to what clan raised you or the society you hale from than a true sign of blood connection. Surnames for the most part were imposed on most peoples when they began and many were that of the lord owning the feudal manner folks lived on or the town they physically came from.

Yes in many cultures, incluing my own the surname was an extension of the concept "son of" which was for the most part a blood connection but it also used to tie the child directly to that parent alone and not that parents forebears. My son is the son of me by my raising him etc. I am not disregarding his genetic past nor do I mean to discount it.

In my wife's ancestry the Norwegian culture the surname changed from generation to generation and was based on the first name of the father. For example Neils Knudson has a son named Knud whose own surname was then Neilson. Knud Neilson has a son named Lars Knudson whose own son was named Neils Larson.

My only point here is names are artificial to begin with but our society has placed great importance to them so we all do and hence the truth that you both, and many others, feel (understandably so) falsely labeled. It all comes down to emotions.

[I may copy this comment into a post for my own blog]

damianhadams said...


thanks for the thoughts.
While the surname in some instances may reflect the clan that raised you, this clan was usually your blood relations.
In some cases the surname also reflected a family profession (eg Miller, Smith). However these and those imposed by the feudal lords were in the early days of family names and since these times they have reflected a genetic family tree.

In the Norwegian context it is still a link directly to your genetic father.
At least they know that they're Norwegian. I can only speculate.