Sunday, September 28, 2008


Do you read the Legal Notices in the newspaper? I find them very interesting, especially the ones regarding name changes. The most usual, of course, are where one parent petitions for a surname change for a child or children. Probably mom has remarried and the children will, through this legal action, assume the name of the new father. That is, of course, if the old father agrees.

A little harder to understand is why Petunia Clapsaddle chooses to change her name to Aphrodite Clapsaddle. Name changes like this usually cause an interruption to my husband’s newspaper reading when I say, “Hey, can you believe this?” And I would think it might behoove poor Ms. Clapsaddle to get rid of her surname as well.

Another change that is hard to understand but probably perfectly logical if one were familiar with names from other cultures is when someone by the name of Zeynep Erkut changes to Yaprak Erkut. I can’t help but wonder if this is a male or female doing the changing. And why he or she just didn’t pick a name easy for Americans to identify. (When I lived in Turkey I had my Turkish name all picked out – Canan, pronounced Jahnan, - but since I didn’t live there the rest of my life I never had a chance to use it!)

I am always surprised when I see a male name being changed to a female name. We know it happens, and I personally am okay with it (as if I were asked!), but it is nevertheless a surprise to me and maybe to his/her co-workers. Changing from Petunia to Aphrodite is much less startling than change from Dick to Jane.

A couple of years ago I was listening to a genealogical talk on using newspapers published in the county where an ancestor lived. The speaker, a fine researcher herself, was stimulating us all with her success stories, amply illustrated with overhead transparencies from old newspapers. She ended her talk with the importance of also reading the Legal Notices in old newspapers from the area where our families lived. As she prepared to put up the final illustration, she said, “Now look at this next legal notice. Think how lucky you would feel if you discovered your family like this in a newspaper.”

Up the illustration went – and darned if it wasn’t a Pomona newspaper from 1947, showing a Petition for Name Change of Julius, Bertha, Jerrold and Judy Teitelbaum to Julius, Bertha, Jerrold and Judy Title! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I am embarrassed to admit I yelled out quite loudly, “THAT'S MY HUSBAND'S FAMILY!”

Now as it happened, none of this information was new to me, since my husband had the original court documents in his files. But to be sitting in a room and find your husband’s family being used as a really important illustration in a good genealogical talk was just too funny! Luckily it was a fairly small meeting and the people there knew me and forgave my outburst. But it certainly did confirm my thinking that reading Legal Notices sometimes can be exceptionally interesting.

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