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Friday, February 4, 2011

Marriage - Changing Ones name

The following article is interesting especially since women are now being written back into history and now that family history is recognised as an important component of Public History.

Have you ever considered why you gave up your maiden name and happily adopted your husband's family name, forever more being known as Mrs "husband's name?"  

As family historians we relentlessly and enthusiastically research our own family name (and sometimes our husband's, especially if he has noble connections) so why don't we keep our own name at the time of marriage?  

The following column from the Nepean Times newspaper of 23rd December 1899, might provide some food for thought.
The practice of women changing their names at marriage is very ancient.  Ladies of ancient Rome were known by their husband's names, thus the consorts of Pompey and Cicero were spoken of as Julia of Pompey and Octavia of Cicero; and women in most countries signed their names in the same way, but after a time omitted the 'of.'  This fashion came into use in Britain after the Roman occcupation, but at the beginning of the seventeenth century the custom seems doubtful, for  Catherine Parr so signed her name even after her second marriage, and we always read of Lady Jane Grey (not Dudley), and Arabella Stuart (not Seymour).  Some people consider the custom of women taking her husband's  name as originating  in the teaching of the Bible that 'they twain shall be one flesh.'  

Shirley Evans

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