The legality of Confirmation names, and going by a different name than your legal name

I was going through some paperwork of my father-in-law’s yesterday and found the court order legally changing his last name from the consonant-heavy surname his father brought with him from Poland to an English surname that shares enough sounds with the original Polish surname to make sense of the change. Though my FIL died when my husband was small, we’ve always known that he and his siblings legally changed their surname, so that wasn’t a surprise — but what was a surprise was that, in the documents, I read that my FIL had been using this new English surname his whole life. He’d been registered under it in school and had it on his high school diploma, and according to the document, “All records of employment, registration under the Selective Service Act, and voting records” had already, always, been under the new English surname, despite the fact that he didn’t apply for the legal change until he was 25. So interesting, right?!

One question that my husband and I have had that wasn’t answered by this document, though, is when and how he took his Confirmation name as his legal middle name (he hadn’t been given a middle name at birth). This document has his full name as including the Confirmation-as-middle, but no mention of making it so legally, so I assume it had already been done. Or not? Maybe it didn’t need to be? This was back in the 50’s, and also, even now, in New York State anyway (which is where I am and where my FIL lived his whole life), you can go by any name you want without getting a legal name change. According to the New York State Unified Court System,

In New York State, you have the right to adopt any name you wish by using that name for everything in your life. This does not apply to children or prison inmates. But, it may be better to legally change your name because most government agencies will not accept your name change without a court order.

You can ask the court to legally change the name you were given at birth, adoption or marriage.”

And indeed, in my FIL’s application for legal name change, he wrote that having his surname legally changed to the surname he’d always used “will prevent confusion and possible legal difficulties for me in the future.” So I wonder if his usage of his Confirmation name as his middle name was just one of those things — he just started using it, and that was fine, and no one bothered about it, and it became so established as his middle name (or it was such a common practice for people to do that kind of thing) that he didn’t even feel the need to explicitly mention it in his application for his surname change? (In preparing to write this post this morning, I re-read this article I’d written for CatholicMom on middle names — I found it so interesting all over again! Haha!)

Anyway, that reminded me of something I read recently about Confirmation names actually having usage in real life that I’d wanted to share with you. This is from the Christian Names entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) on New Advent:

The practice of adopting a new name was not limited to baptism. Many medieval examples show that any notable change of condition, especially in the spiritual order, was often accompanied by the reception of a new name. In the eighth century the two Englishmen, Winfrith and Willibald, going on different occasions to Rome received from the reigning pontiff, along with a new commission to preach, the names respectively of Boniface and Clement. So again Emma of Normandy, when she married King Ethelred in 1002, took the name Ælfgifu; while, of course, the reception of a new name upon entering a religious order is almost universal even in our day. It is not strange, then, that at confirmation, in which the interposition of a godfather emphasizes the resemblance with baptism, it should have become customary to take a new name, though usually no great use is made of it. In one case, however, that of Henry III, King of France — who being the godson of our English Edward VI had been christened Edouard Alexandre in 1551 — the same French prince at confirmation received the name of Henri, and by this he afterwards reigned. Even in England the practice of adopting a new name at confirmation was remembered after the Reformation, for Sir Edward Coke declares that a man might validly buy land by his confirmation name, and he recalls the case of a Sir Francis Gawdye, late Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, whose name of baptism was Thomas and his name of confirmation Francis (Co. Litt. 3a).”

I’d never heard a story like that about Confirmation names before!

You know I’m always interested in hearing personal, real-life, interesting name stories, so feel free to share!

Baby name consultation: Boy no. 5 needs a name that fits with the very cool style of his siblings

Mary and her husband are hopeful adoptive parents, set to welcome a baby boy into their family this fall — their fifth son! Big sibs are:

Curtice Andrew (nicknamed Curt)
Leavitt Thomas
Hayden Matthew
Johnston James (nicked Johns)
Elizabeth Anne Larkin (called Larkin)

I love love love this family’s style, as all the boys have family surnames as first names and their daughter goes by a family surname as well! So well done!

Mary writes,

Our daughter joined our family through an open domestic adoption. We chose Elizabeth Anne with her birth mom as her first name as a nod to Larkin’s mom’s step mother who passed away and my beloved grandmother.

This little guy will also join our family through an open adoption, God willing. [A surname in his mom’s family] is Bennett so are tentatively planning to use that as his first name but are open to Duncan, Collins, and to a lesser extent Thomas as a first name only because we have used Thomas already and it doesn’t really fit with the others. Basically the only remaining suitable boy surnames.”

I love their whole mindset, and such great names to choose from!

One issue that Mary specifically noted is that all of their boys have apostles’ names as middle names, but there are issues with the remaining apostles’ names. As she writes,

We need help with a middle name.

We are considering Peter (my dad) or Michael (Chris’ dad) but don’t know if we want to use two middle names and my dad doesn’t really like his name, but it does follow the conventions we have followed thus far ie apostle middle name. Our thinking there is the first names are a little modern so we wanted strong middle names they can use,

We thought about Phillip but it doesn’t feel right.

I like the idea of a Marian boys name or perhaps even Joseph as a nod to my husband [it’s her husband’s middle name].

Or maybe Gabriel, my confirmation name? or Mark, Chris’ confirmation name. Maybe expand and consider Luke or Paul?

So my first thought regarding middle names for boys is to change from “apostles’ names” to “New Testament names” or even more broadly “biblical names.” My guess is that if they were to give this little guy the middle name Luke, for example, no one will look at the boys’ middle names and say, “Wait a minute. The first four all have names of the apostles while the fifth one doesn’t!” Rather, people will think, “New Testament names” if they even have a thought about their style at all. Andrew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Peter, Michael, Joseph, Philip, Luke, and Paul are all such common names (and I don’t mean “common” in any negative way) that I think they’re less thought of as “biblical names” and more thought of as “traditional, masculine boy names.” Certainly parents who are choosing names are tuned in to the nuances, and those who love names might notice, but I don’t think it would register to even me that the first four are specifically apostles’ names. So I hope that gives Mary and her hubs some peace about branching out! It wouldn’t be breaking from their tradition, it would be renaming it.

That said, I do have some ideas of how to retain their apostle theme while still working with the parameters and name ideas Mary provided.

Before I get into that though, I wanted to comment on the names they’re considering. I mentioned already that I love Bennett — how crazy awesome is it that a family surname in his mom’s family tree is so well suited to being a first name! I think it’s a slam dunk, truly.

If they wanted to be talked out of Bennett though, I can think of two little niggling points: (1) it ends in “tt” like Leavitt. This can be either a pro or a con — a pro in that it links his name in really closely to one of the older boys, which can be really sweet; a con in that they would have two with the same ending. But thinking about it more, Hayden, Johnston, and Larkin all end in the same sound, and I didn’t even realize until I checked to see, so I’m sure Bennett and Leavitt are fine. (2) While I really do love the connection to his mom in the name, I wonder if there’s something a little off about having this baby’s first name NOT be from Mary/Mary’s husband’s family tree, which all the other kids’ names do — might this new baby feel a little left out? I know this is a sensitive topic, and I don’t have answers — I just want to raise the questions so they’re sure they’ve thought it all through.

If they were to ask my opinion, I would definitely say to take Thomas off the table. It’s a great name! But there are lots of great names, and I’d love to see them choose a new one.

I like both Duncan and Collins, and I thought Collins a particularly promising choice because of another idea I had: considering surnames that are derived from biblical first names. Collins can be derived from Nicholas, which is a New Testament name, which — if Mary and her hubs could get on board with that idea — could free up the middle name spot to do something different than a biblical/New Testament/apostle name.

I love Gabriel, Joseph, and Luke — I would consider them all Marian (Gabriel and Joseph because of the significant roles they played in her life and motherhood, and Luke because his gospel is the most Marian and contains her Magnificat), and they’re all New Testament names, which fits in so nicely with the others. Luke especially has the same feel as the others, due to his being an evangelist like Matthew and John. I like that Joseph is Mary’s husband’s middle too, that’s a really nice thing for their new baby. Mark and Paul are fine names too, and also keep with the feel of the others — I bet a lot of people think Paul was one of the original twelve, and Mark being an evangelist gives him the feel of an apostle for many people.

Okay! Now on to new ideas. I know the reason Mary emailed is because she wants new middle name ideas, but honestly, I could only think of one: Simon! They’ve already considered Peter and Philip, and I don’t think Nathanael/Bartholomew or Jude/Thaddeus are quite right for them (in those forms anyway; see below). There were two Simons in the twelve — Simon Peter of course and Simon the Zealot — and it’s a great name, it’s got a bookish feel that I think goes well with surname first names. Bennett Simon would be quite nice. It doesn’t have a great flow with Duncan or Collins though. I wonder if Simon could also be used as a nod to Mary’s dad? I think most people think of Simon Peter when they think of Simon, so it could be a way of honoring him that doesn’t use his name.

But I did have a lot of ideas for first names that help grapple with their issues and maybe help them look at things in a new way and come up with some new ideas. For example:

(1) Pierce (or Piers)
I really really like Pierce for them. It certainly has use as a first name, but it’s also an English surname that really fits the vibe of their other kids I think. Best yet, it’s a variant of Peter, so it would be using Mary’s dad’s name in a new way (thus hopefully working around the fact that he doesn’t like his name), which is also an apostle’s name (so they’d be able to stick with what they’ve already done in the sense of giving each of their boys an apostle’s name; let’s leave for the moment the fact that the others all have the apostle’s name in the middle and this would be putting it up front), AND I’ve seen it used in honor of Simeon’s prophecy that Mary’s heart would be pierced by a sword, which gives it a Marian character. They could also consider the variant Piers, which takes away the Marian element but is another cool way to honor a Peter. This is a slight departure from what they’ve done already in terms of the strict definition of using a family surname; but at the same time they can argue it’s the same as they’ve already done — used a surname as a first name that has heavy family ties.

If they used Pierce, they could put Michael in the middle and get both grandpas there in one name. Pierce Bennett feels perhaps too surname heavy, but Bennett is actually a medieval diminutive of Benedict, and I really like Pierce Benedict. Or would that take it too far from the connection to the mom? Benedict/Bennett means “blessed,” which can also point to Our Lady, which I love. I also love the idea of two middle names for this baby — different from his brothers but something he can share with Larkin, who came to their family in the same way, and would open up another slot for fitting in a name from his mom while still allowing Mary and her hubs to honor their family members.

(2) Miles or Mitchell
Anyone who’s been reading for a while knows that I push Miles a lot! I love it because it has traditional usage in Ireland as the anglicization of the old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary.” I love that! But, I’ve also seen it connected to Michael — I’ve seen it as a nickname for Michael, which I think is so cool, and I’ve seen it suggested as possibly originating as a variant of Michael (read more about it here). So Miles can be another surname-type name that could work as a first name with their theme while also honoring Grandpa Michael.

Mitchell is another idea along these lines. You all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and like/are considering in The Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Mitchell was listed as a style match for Curtis, which I thought was a reasonable stand-in for Curtice. Mitchell’s use as a first name comes from the surname Mitchell, which came from the first name Michael. So another way to use a name with a similar feel in the first name spot that nods to an important family member!

(Fun fact: Miles is also a style match for Bennett!)

(3) Elliott
When I saw Elliott listed as a style match for Bennett, I immediately thought it deserved a mention. Like Bennett, it’s a medieval diminutive of a different name — in this case, Elias, which is the Greek form of Elijah. Elliott became a surname, and then a first name, so it’s got that surname history and biblical origin. Of course Elias/Elijah is Old Testament rather than New, but if they broaden their theme to “biblical” it works.

(4) Bates, or Bartlett
Two surnames that derive from Bartholomew are Bates (how cool!) and Bartlett. Bartlett might be too similar to Bennett? Like, if they’re going to consider Bartlett, let’s just go all the way and do Bennett? But Bates is awesome. It takes care of the apostle theme, and then they could do any of their family names in the middle. I love Bates Michael, Bates Joseph, and even Bates Benedict (how scholarly sounding!). I don’t even mind Bates Bennett, the pleasantness to me of the alliteration balances out the possible negativity of two surnames in a row. Or Bates Michael Bennett, for example, which is also really handsome.

(5) Judd
Judd isn’t as clean an idea as some of the others — my sources mostly say it’s a variant of (and surname derived from) the name Jordan, but the Surname Database, which usually matches up quite well with my reliable sources, says Judd has three possible origins, one of which is as a variant of Jude. So that can work for Jude Thaddeus. I like Judd Michael, Judd Simon, Judd Benedict/Bennett, etc.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest that fit with the names and theme they’ve already used?

Spotlight on: Sunniva

Don’t forget to enter the Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim giveaway — it ends tonight at midnight! I’ll announce the winners tomorrow!

A fellow name enthusiast recently told me her Confirmation name is Sunniva and I was like Sunniva! I knew next to nothing about the name or the saint and I knew I had to do a spotlight on it!

St. Sunniva of Bergen, also known as St. Sunniva of Norway and of Selje, and sometimes known under the variants Sunnifa and Synnöve, has a pretty interesting story: she was the daughter of an Irish king who fled to Norway to escape an arranged marriage, and died there in a cave; years later her body was found incorrupt. The Irish-Norwegian connection makes her name a perfect one for a family with Irish and Norwegian ancestry (like mine!), especially because her name, though used in Scandinavian countries (especially Norway and Sweden as far as I can tell), is actually Old English in origin.

Regarding pronunciation, I’ve seen sun-EE-va on behindthename (by a mom living in the U.S. who named her daughter Sunniva) and SOON-ee-va on Nameberry, and the four examples on Forvo sound more like sun-ee-VA to me. So it seems there are choices, but unless you all know which is the predominant pronunciation for native English speakers, I’m going to recommend the first, because it rhymes with Geneva, which I think makes for a really easy way to help others learn and remember it. I also like that it highlights the -iva part, which can lend itself so naturally to the nicknames Eva and Evie, Neva, and even Vivi. I also love the possibility of Sunni, so sweet! And Synne appears to be a Norwegian short form of the name, pronounced SIN-na according to Forvo.

Sunniva is pretty rare here, having been given to 9 girls in 2016, 10 in 2015, less than five in 2014, and 5 in 2013 (I didn’t go back farther than that). So a true rarity that has history and faith significance and some sweet and on-trend nicknames!

What do you all think of Sunniva? Would you name your daughter Sunniva, or have you? Do you know anyone named Sunniva? What does she think of her name, and does she go by a nickname?

Couple good “Anna” posts

Don’t forget to enter the Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim giveaway — it ends tomorrow at midnight!

Continuing our theme of St. Anne, I read two posts today about the name Anna that I thought you all would enjoy as much as I did! There’s this one at British Baby Names: Name Help: Honouring Anna, which provides an awesome list of names that have a connection to Anna.

The second was this dilemma at Baby Name Wizard: Boy and Girl Name Help for Helena’s Sibling – can’t commit to any on the shortlist and due in 5 weeks! Extra fun for us is the fact that the mama wrote, “We also would like one of the names (first or middle) to be a saint name/religious in nature as we are practicing Roman Catholics.” Lots of names on their lists are ones we often love here!

Happy feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim! A giveaway for you! ❤

It’s our patronal feast day!! 🎉🎉🎉

I’ve absolutely loved having St. Anne as the patroness of this blog — she has shown herself to be a help to me and to our Sancta Nomina community so many times! In preparation for today I did a St. Anne Novena, which ended yesterday, and I offered it for all of you and your intentions. 💕

And I have a few things to give away! The major thing is a Matching His & Hers Rosary and Rosary Bracelet set from our friend Shannon‘s Chews Life shop, which has been posted especially in honor of this wonderful feast day!

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Screen shot of the Chews Life IG post

The winner will be able to choose the color — there are several available, all beautiful.

Secondly, I have two Tiny Saints St. Anne charms, perfect for any little one with St. Anne as patron (or any big one too!).

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To enter this giveaway, just click here! It’ll run until midnight on Friday, and I’ll randomly draw three winners on Saturday — the first will get the Rosary and Rosary Bracelet set, and the second and third will get a Tiny Saints charm.

Thank you all for being so wonderful, and thank you to St. Anne for watching over us and praying for us! ❤🌹❤🌹❤🌹

I was mentioned in a Scary Mommy video, nbd

OHMYGOSH YOU GUYS!! Check out the latest Name Dame video at Scary Mommy — not only is it awesome because it features families who wanted to have their culture represented in their kids’ names and their thought process behind their choices, but also: I’M MENTIONED IN IT!!! What!

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This is just a screenshot; to watch the video click here!

I got an email from a lovely lady at Scary Mommy a while ago asking about Sancta Nomina and what goes on here for their video series on names, and we had a great chat about Catholic names and saints and Marian apparitions and Catholic naming trends, which was so fun for me to share with someone who isn’t as familiar — she was totally wonderful about it all and asked really great questions — and I’ve been maybe obsessively checking their site ever since, waiting to see what they’d do with the info I provided, and though she initially wasn’t sure where I would fit in, I really love being included in the conversation about keeping one’s culture alive in the naming of one’s babies. Such a nice shout-out! I’m so excited for a new audience to have access to all the great info we discuss here!

I’d love to hear what you all think of the video! And thanks to Clare for letting me know it had posted!