Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile
What’s in a name
Picking up the phone, I was pleased to hear my niece-in-law calling to have a chat; after swapping different family news came a request, I had no trouble with. Telling me she was trying to trace the family tree down my side, would I happen to have a copy of my parent’s marriage certificate, the answer was no, but in my particular line of work one of the duties was obtaining different certificates from the office of Birth, Deaths and Marriages, so I would be happy to do this for her if it would help .
After filling out the application and handing it and the appropriate government fee to the cashier, there was the usual five minute wait, and under normal circumstances, the certificate was handed to the purchaser. Not this time, the woman bringing up the details on the computer, starts to look concerned, looking at the screen and across to me, eventually she asks if I’m sure of my facts, as they have no record of a marriage between the two names I had supplied. As this had been my mother’s second marriage, I thought maybe she used her first married name instead of her maiden name, so I gave the woman that name, more confused looks and rechecking her computer, then again saying sorry, no match. I’m stumped and tell her they are the only names I have for my mum at the time they married. Never mind there is another way we can try, she says, I’ll look using your fathers details. Again, she asks me to repeat the details I had given her, including the names of my grandparents on his side, all this is verbally relayed to her
The results of that search had her asking if it was important that I get the certificate, as sometimes it’s better to leave things as they are and not to delve into parent’s affairs. Good lord, I thought the poor woman is trying to either save or protect me from embarrassment or prepare me for some shock. Trying not to giggle I quietly informed her that as I knew my mother very well, there was nothing she could tell me about her actions that would spiral me into hysterics. With that, I was handed the certificate by the woman who had no intention of going anywhere, until she heard my reaction to learning that my mother had the same surname as my father before their wedding. All I could do was stare stunned at the information and tell her I had some more investigation to carry out, retreating from the office before bursting into gales of laughter. Mum had struck again.
On arriving home that evening I showed my hubby the certificate, he just laughed and wanted to know what I was planning to do, well sure as eggs are eggs I can’t tell my niece about this until I speak to my dad. Obviously, there had been some sort of monkey business going on wayback then, and I’ll be damned if I want to be responsible for rocking the boat or hurting feelings, I’ll give him a ring. Admittedly, by this time I was intrigued, having come to the realisation that she had to have changed her name by deed pole, but for the life of me I couldn’t work out why.
I was thrilled when Dad answered their phone, (he had of course remarried many years ago, even so there are some things second wives mightn’t be aware of) after the usual pleasantries I asked him if he would mind answering a question regarding mum, if I know the answer it’s yours he told me. Assuring him I wasn’t prying but explained about his granddaughter-in-law doing the family tree and wanting a copy of the marriage certificate, so rather than hassle him for it I had obtained one myself. The infectious chuckle must have started deep in his throat and resounded clearly through the phone, relieving me of all the tension I hadn’t realised I’d built up, having to ask the question. Why did she do it Dad, you obviously knew about it and went along with it … ok I will understand if you’d rather not discuss it, but I am ready to burst with curiosity, what was her reason. It’s ok love, yes she changed her name because I had to return home to Nana & Pop’s, the war had just finished and I had only just arrived back in Australia, no time to marry first, you know what Nana was like, she would not have accepted us just living together, it was 1945 and parents were very strict, and I wasn’t of age, so your mother changed her name and told them we were married, until we could sneak off to Melbourne for a few days to marry at the registry office. There was some more joking back and forth, and we made the decision to give out the wedding date for the family tree, but there was nothing to be gained in handing over the certificate. So it resides in among the usual family papers that may or may not be treasured when the next generation come across them.