Friday, March 26, 2004

On Whether Women Should Change Their Last Names Upon Marriage

In the debate over whether married women should change their last names, no one mentions the effects that our practices here will have on future would-be genealogists.

I've spent a good bit of time trying to research who my ancestors were. It can be quite difficult to do so, but at least you can count on people having followed the rule that women changed their last name to their husbands upon marriage. The rule could have been the other way around, with men changing their last names. What matters is that 1) families had the same name, and 2) the rule was predictable.

These days, though, things are not predictable. There are numerous possibilities:
  • 1. The woman changes her last name;
  • 2. The man changes his last name;
  • 3. The man and woman hyphenate, in no particular order;
  • 4. The man and woman turn one of the last names into a middle name, in no particular order;
  • 5. The man and woman each keep their own name;
  • 6. The man and woman create a brand new last name.
Rules 1 and 2 are by far the best; and neither of them is better than the other. (Rule 1 is preferable only because it's more predictable; that's how things have always been done. If society could en masse switch to Rule 2, that would be equivalent to future genealogists.)

Rules 3 and 4 are bad, because any couple who combines last names makes it a virtual certainty that their descendants will follow a different rule when they get married someday. (One can't have a string of 4 or 8 last names, after all.) Rules 3 and 4 therefore fail to be predictable. Rule 5 is fine for the couple themselves, but it creates difficulties as to what the children will be called (again, unpredictability rears its head), and it makes it more difficult for future genealogists to figure out whether these two people had anything to do with each other. Rule 6 at least creates a family with the same last name, but it creates a sharp, unpredictable, and possibly unbridgeable break with all prior generations of both families.


Blogger trumwill said...

If I were making the rules, I would have each side keep their name, sons would get the father's and daughters the mother's. The "family name" would be hyphenated (Mr. and Mrs. Johnson-Blake, the Johnson-Blake family, etc), but the last names would travel on down the line depending on gender. I think people would get used to it quickly enough.

I don't feel strongly enough about it that I want to go that route, though. My general sense is that it's best to follow social convention when possible (though my wife elected not to and I can't really blame her). Just sayin' what I would make social convention, if it were up to me.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Sonia Serrano said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Sonia Serrano said...

i would never change my last name! You will not end up with 4 to 8 last names...common sense!

drop the others and keep carrying the last 2 names per generations 1 from the father and other from the mother. This also prevents Spain all children have 2 last names and ends with the mothers! All children have the mothers last name...its the law. BTW mother has 2 last names father has 2 last names and the child will have 2 last simple 1 last name of each parent, this way we know whom is the father and the mothers family name! This custom should be adopted universally this way we won't have baby girls aborted because they want sons to carry the name...this is the number 1 reason why so many baby girls get aborted. Woman need to smarten up!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Sonia Serrano said...

This is the way it works in spain: Just using an example:

Fathers Name: John Smith Wilson
Mothers Name: Mary Doe Flowers
Child's Name: Melissa Wilson Flowers

Notice that the fathers name is 2nd last and the mothers is last, this is the law in Spain...I now know whom her parents are both sides, this also prevents incest! I can trace the child's roots also because of her parents name i can find out her grandparents on her baptism certificates or school papers because her mothers last name has not been changed! Now lets say the child is married this is how it would be:

Wife: Melissa Wilson Flowers
Husband: Don Baker Tables
Child: Maria Tables Flowers
Child: Johnny Tables Flowers

Notice both the childrens last name boy and girl have again...i know the tables is the father and flowers is the mother, and looking at Melissa's last name I know Wilson is her dad's and flowers is her mothers...which would be the grand parents of the children, and i also know tables and baker is the other sides now i know many generations of all sides, because remember you are not just 1 name, you have DNA from your mothers family too, you should acknowlegde spain we do! Americans are old fashioned and don't care about their daughters rights, thats why so many baby girls are being aborted because of this 1 main reason that girls never carry their family names...they leave and have their mother in laws name...this is the mentality! Women will never get far if they don't stand up, adopt this concept globally i bet the world would look at you women in a different way if you just stand up for your rights...its 2012 not 0212 bc!

6:32 PM  

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