Saturday, March 21, 2015

What’s In A Name?

One of the hardest if not the hardest decision that my wife and I have had to make was when we had to come up with a name for our son. We went back and forth countless times and consulted more books and websites than I can recall each time writing down anything that appealed to us. We couldn't decide between choosing a traditional Jewish name and those names that can be found in our extensive family trees. After we each wrote a few options down we would share with one another. This eliminated many of the options. More still were eliminated when we considered the names of some of our young relatives.

After several months going back and forth we had a few options both of first names and middle names, Jewish names and family names, some that we both really liked and others that had a certain amount of indifference with one or both of us. About a week before our son arrived we sat down and looked at the options that we both liked. We played around with the names switching between first and middle as well as family and non-family names. We also considered some of the surnames on my wife’s side for the middle name… after all it has worked for me.  

I guess there were about 5 first and 5 middle names that it came down to. Not being able to figure out what exactly fit our son we both took turns just saying them out load to see what sounded right. This is when we notice something very special. Each time we read the names our son decided to cast his vote. It didn’t matter whose voice, he consistently kicked, punched, or head butted when we would say each name… one first and one middle. Not many parents can say that their son chose his own name but we can.

His first name is one that runs throughout both sides of my family. When looking throughout the tree I see it across many branches with various surnames in tow: Teaford, Hallman, Uttley, Redcross, Cooke, Clapsaddle, Ardis, Noblit, and a few others. It runs throughout the generations and it has always been a family name. In addition to the recent significance and honor that the name carries it was also the name of my great great grandfather Uttley, a member of the Philadelphia Police Department for over 50 years, who raised my grandmother after her parents divorced. My 5th great grandfather Redcross, member of the Monacan Nation and Revolutionary War soldier. My great grandfather Hallman who served in WWI. My 5th great grandfather Noblit, one of the early residents of Middletown Township in Delaware County who saw much of his property seized during the Revolution.

With our son selecting his first name from my side his middle name had to be one of significance in my wife’s family. Thankfully our son agreed and chose a name which, according to what I have been told is the name of the last in a long line of Rabbis on my wife’s side. My wife’s great grandfather Greenburg may have passed nearly a decade before she was born but his legacy still lives to this day. Born in Romania and having come to the United States around the turn of the 20th century as a child, he supported his family the best he could and raised my wife’s grandmother whom she still misses. In the end, our son chose names from the men who raised both of our grandmothers to which we were very close. He also made picking a Hebrew name really easy. 

So some many see it and wonder how we came up with the name and we have been asked that many times over. We did consider the origins of the names (which did seem to fit our son) but the family meaning behind them is far more significant. While we have both given the short answer during the course of conversations, now you have the full story behind the name. Our son has a part of each of us, myself and my wife, but more importantly he carries with him a long family history on both sides of which he can be proud and all he has to do to remember that is look at his own name.