A Last Name

Last night, J and I found ourselves in a discussion about last names. We didn’t have a problem coming up with some awesome and agreeable first names. We’ll both be happy with quite a few different ones. But we’ve struggled with the last name.

When J and I were married, I was fairly adamant that she retain her last name. I felt it was an important symbol of the type of marriage I expected.

But it has caused a bit of an issue about what last name our kids(s) should have.

One of the key points is that all of us – parents and kid(s) – should have the same last name. Which means that at least one person will need to change their last name.

I think for me this means a legal name change, but retaining the use of our current last names publicly. When we go to the airport with our passports, they all have the same last name, but we’d still get mail and such in our original last names. I suppose this might be confusing, but I see it as kinda like having an alias. Or being an actor with a stage name. Which is kinda fun.

I don’t think J is sold on that idea.

But the main point is what would that new last name be.

There are five main methods for giving a child its last name:

  • Use the father’s last name;
  • Use the mother’s last name;
  • Use a hyphenated version of the father’s and mother’s last name;
  • Sons will get the father’s last name and daughters will get the mother’s last name (or 1st kid gets father’s/mother’s last name, 2nd kid gets the other’s); and,
  • A completely new last name will be created (using, or not using, elements of the parents’ last names).

Recently J has said that the fourth idea might have merit.

All along I have been advocating for the last idea: a completely new last name – the problem remains, however, just what would that last name be?

I’d be curious to find out everyone’s opinions on this issue.

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4 thoughts on “A Last Name

  1. I know a family where the husband took his wife’s last name in addition to his own, she kept her maiden name and the children go by the father’s new name (like a hyphenated name but without a hyphen). I took my husband’s last name, in part to avoid such debates, in part so I could have the initials “MAD”, and in part since I have to spell my first name constantly I figured I may as well spell my last name too. 🙂

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  2. As the daughter of a genealogy hobbyist, I would suggest that your last option, an entirely new name, would cause future genealogists to curse your last name. Whatever it may be.

    Personally, I kept my last name when I married because it is part of my identity. I wasn’t willing to take my husband’s name, so I can’t imagine I would have bought into the idea of a new last name either.

    We gave our daughter my husband’s last name because it was easier – more socially acceptable. That was my choice. I wasn’t ready to be seen as the “crazy feminist” that in fact I may be. This way, I can keep that identity under wraps.

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  3. Another option that my best friend and her husband chose: kids get the mother’s last name as their middle name. Maybe you could do that, and also each take each others’ last names as your own middle names?

    Personally, I don’t like the idea of a new last name at all. It seems contrived. (Well, it would in fact be contrived, wouldn’t it!). And I guess I like the historical continuance of family names. However, I took my husband’s last name because I didn’t like the idea of being an outsider in my own family, so I kind of understand your wanting to have the same last name as each other and your kids.

    It’s funny. I didn’t feel any loss of identity at all when giving up my maiden name, or feel in any way that it signified what kind of a marriage I was entering into. I have always been far more attached to my first name than to my last, I guess, and from a feminist perspective, I didn’t see how keeping my father’s name was any more enlightened than taking my beloved’s.

    It’s a hard one, Robin. Doubly so because the two of you have to make it together. Good luck!

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  4. Thanks for the feedback, folks.

    Using mother’s last name as a middle is an interesting way of doing it – but some last names make difficult given names.

    In much of the Spanish-speaking world, children are given the father’s last name but also the mother’s – two separate surnames. For instance, we all know Fidel Castro. Castro was his father’s last name. But technically, Fidel’s full name is Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz – “Ruz” being his mother’s last name. Traditionally, the father’s last name became the first surname of a child – the last name used informally – and the mother’s became the second. However, gender equality laws have made this flexible – just like in Canada, I guess. For formal, legal, and other official purposes, the full name – including both surnames – is used.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_naming_customs

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