Must Surnames Be Sir-names?

This just POPPED into my head a few days ago. It’s not like I never thought about it before, since it was discussed a LOT in the 1980s among my grad school friends in linguistics and English. In Western society, the tradition for the past number of hundreds of years has been that women took the surname of their husbands upon marriage (you know, to show who they belonged to and who got to take all their property).

First names on a bulletin board
Somehow, we’ve always been freer with given names. I’m awfully disinclined to be Oflee, though. Image from @eliza_og via Twenty20.

Those of us who were in the feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s got all worked up over this remnant of the patriarchal system we were trying to overcome. It was quite the hot topic, since for many of us, this tradition held sentimental attachments and symbolized “love” and “commitment” to them. Others didn’t want to feel like someone’s possession and didn’t want to change our names. Both sides have valid arguments.

A picture of Icelandic money
Iceland also has women on their money, and guys with cool hats. Image from @SteveAllenPhoto via Twenty20.

It’s often been pointed out that, well, if you keep your birth name (maiden name, not a popular term among my friends at the time), you are simply keeping a patronymic from the previous generation. Yep, that was totally true, unless you happened to be from Iceland (like Björk Guðmundsdóttir) or using a Gaelic system (Máire Ní Bhriain).

As alternatives, people thought about new ways to symbolize with their names that they have formed a commitment to make a family unit. A lot of people hyphenated their last names or used both, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, as it’s quite common. Sometimes both partners do this; sometimes just one of them do. Hmm. Others just added the new one to their previous one. I actually bowed to pressure and was SueAnn Kendall Crain for two years. I never got comfortable with it.

See, I even have things published under that name.

Some of us (me since the Crain episode) just kept the names we were given. However, I’d hoped to give male children their father’s surname and female children mine. Only little dudes showed up, though, and their names match their dad’s Irish surname quite nicely, so I’m okay with it.

The most fun names to me are ones where people combine their sirnames (yuck yuck) to make new ones. I knew a few people who did that back in the 80s, then didn’t hear much of it until later. I LOVE some of the combinations people come up with!

names on a wall.
Choose random syllables and have fun.

The option that bows the least to the patriarchy is where members of the family select a completely different name to symbolize their commitment. Why not? Genealogy students probably roll their eyes at this, but hey, at some point in history, that’s what everyone did. English people chose their occupation (Archer, Butcher, Tanner), where they came from (Kendal, in northern England), a personal characteristic (Whitehead), etc. Other European places made similar choices, while Gaelic folks stuck with their patronymic Mc- and O’ (son of) surnames (very few women continue to use the ní (daughter of) ones today). So if I wanted to be Suna Plantsinger, I could. Lee wouldn’t go for that.

Back to Combining Names

Where am I? I didn’t intend to write a history of surnames. I do believe one can look that all up on the googles. What I was trying to get to was how popular the idea of combining the last names of people who’ve formed family units is among my friends. I asked people this a couple days ago:

Thinking about surnames. What if you and your spouse (or partner) blended your surnames as a sign of commitment? What would you get?
A fun question

At this time I have had 171 responses. I guess there was some interest. Most people simply took the beginning of one name and combined it with the end of the other. Some really came out like names that should stick!

  • Kendall + Bruns = Kenduns, Brundall (Kens, Brunsken, etc.)
  • My neighbors Faivre + Mitchell = Fitchell or Maivre (best was Faivritch)
  • Lozano + Harris = Lozarris or Harrizano

It got more creative when people took random syllables and moved them around, or surrounded one name with parts of another.

  • Brukends is one I like for me and Lee.

Here’s a story someone shared, which I hope is anonymous enough not to be invading their privacy:

We have friends named FredRICkson and PeTERson who got married. They took the middle syllable of each name (the core of who they are) and now are legally The Ricters which I love. They used a scrabble tile themed sign to announce it after the ceremony.

That was so creative!

There were two couples whose name ended up nearly the same as each of their existing surnames. I guess that was destiny!

  • Peterson + Jensen = Petersen, Jenson

None of this solves the problem of our names being reminders of not-too-distant times when women could not own property, vote, etc., and in fact WERE property. But, it shows that today we can have some fun with it. I’m thinking of a party game or something, where folks could vote on the best blended names.

Desperate for fun? Ummm…maybe.


Did you know you can now support my blog and the podcasts that go with it? Yep. Totally optional, though.

The History of Our Cemetery

You may know we have a grave on our property, with (as far as we can tell) just one person buried there, Heinrich Rentsch (1826-1888). I have tried to learn more about him, but my skills aren’t too great. I do know that we want to repair his headstone, which cattle knocked over in 2012.

My oldest photo of this. I know I wrote a lot about this once…but I sure can’t find it.
Look, I found a crawfish while waiting on Holly.

I was contacted by Holly Jentsch (names are sure similar around here), who is doing official research on cemeteries in the area. She’s working with the Milam County Historical Commission to GPS all graves/cemeteries in Milam County for the Texas Historical Commission Atlas as well as document the sites. She wanted to check out the site on our property. Of course, I said yes, but it took a while to get together, what with all the snow, family stuff, etc.

Yesterday was really windy, so it was a perfect day to stay outside and interact and not breathe on each other. Holly and I got a good look at the part of the headstone we are keeping by the RV, then hiked (along with Vlassic) to the fenced-in area where the rest of the stone is.

We had a great time talking as we walked around our pasture. Holly likes to walk, too, and it turned out we have a ridiculous amount of things in common, plus she lives next door to my friend, Donna. So, now I know who “the neighbor with all the dogs” is. Small counties are really small. Anyway, it sure was fun to talk to someone. It’s such a rare treat (especially since I haven’t even left the ranch since last week).

Here’s Holly getting a photo of the base of the headstone.

When we finally got to the old fence, Holly got excited, seeing depressions near the grave of Mr. Rentsch, because that could have meant she found his son, Otto, for whom there are no records. But no, those are the final resting spots of Rosie, Stella, and Brody. Sniff.

I hope to go out and look at other sites in the with Holly, when she gets permission. I find the history of settlers around here so interesting, and it’s well worth preserving!

History of Our Ranch’s Former Resident

When she got home, Holly was able to send me her findings. She is great at genealogical research, DNA, and all that fun stuff. It was sure fun to talk to a professional. Here’s what she sent:

Thank you so much for letting me come to visit you and Mr. Rentsch today. This is what I have found out so far about Mr. Rentsch. He was born in Dresden, Germany on 20 Jan 1826 and died in Milam County on 17 July 1888. In the 1870 and 1880 census he lived in Precinct 2, Comal County, Texas with his wife Johanna, son Otto and daughter Helena. His occupation was farmer and he owned property.

Johanna Rentsch was born in April 1830 possibly in Sachsen/Saxony and died 9 Nov 1908 in Galveston, Galveston County, Texas. After her husband’s death she was found in Dallas, Texas in 1889 and 1890, address r.322 Hord between Griffin, Magnolia. Her daughter Helena was living with her and working at Eureka Steam Laundry. In the 1900 Census she is living (renting) in Galveston on Avenue 0 1/2, a widow with only 1 of 2 children living. In the 1906 & 1908 Galveston city directory, Johanna was living in the Letitia Rosenberg home. She was buried in the Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston TX.

I have found nothing on the son Otto past him living with the family in the 1880 census but the fact that Mrs. Rentsch states in 1900 that she only has one living child, suggests he died between 1880 and 1900.

The daughter Helena married a Charles Molsburger, a dairy farmer in Galveston about 1896. It was his second marriage. Helena was born in Texas in Dec 1869. Mr. Molsburger had 3 children and may have been divorced. It would appear from the ages of the children in the 1900 Census that only 1 was born to Helena and Charles, Robert Mosburger in 1897. the Molsburger family lives in the part of Galveston that was wiped out by the 1900 Great Hurricane. It appears the whole family was wiped out on 8 Sept 1900 plus many of the extended Molsburger/Malzberger family.

Many thanks to Holly for all this information. Now that I have it blogged, maybe I won’t lose the facts!

Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?

We all want to know that, I guess. I did join Ancestry.com a long time ago to see where my ancestors came from and learn more. I wrote about some of my findings in 2018, and it was pretty interesting to some people other than me:

How Far Back Can You Go?

Those Menorcan Settlers

On a Learning Spree Part 5: Genealogy

Very white.

Ancestry did an update of their science, so my estimate changed. It actually makes a lot more sense now. Here’s the link to it. The main thing that changed is I’m a lot more Scots and English than I was before, and a lot less Irish. This makes sense, knowing my extra British Isles heritage on my dad’s side. There’s a lot of the Germany/Switzerland region, which is the part of my mom’s side you don’t hear much about from them. And I’m about a quarter Swedish, which they have down to the exact town my grandfather’s family lived in for centuries.

This is the current analysis

So, I’m a white person with all the rights and privileges granted thereto. Too bad I’m a woman, or I’d be running things, right? (Working hard to change all that!)

Here’s the 2018 estimate, where they didn’t separate Scotland out from Ireland, and where parts of France were in the UK search.

There were a few more details on ancestors that I enjoyed. The best one is that my second great-grandfather, William Greenberry Lafayette Butt, fought for the Union Army in the Civil War. Hey, at least I had one ancestor on the side that won (all these folks on my dad’s side settled in northeastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina). I’d assumed most were on the other side, or hiding somewhere.

That’s really all I had, just wanted to share that I’m happy to hail from Scotland way in the past. Anything north of Hadrian’s Wall makes me Celtic and happy.

Painting and Polka

Grr, my body is annoying me. I had to quit working on the Pope Residence the the family, because I started getting repetitive motion tingles all in my hand and wrist. I need my hands to work, so after an hour or so of it, I had to stop painting trim. I’d gotten a lot done, though, and was really enjoying myself.

Just a little of the trim Kathleen primed last night.

Last night, after I went home, Kathleen single-handedly primed all the trim in the two offices we’re working on and the hallway. She had noticed that the parts that had already been painted white looked different when over brown or light wood, so she got out the primer (I’d forgotten we had it!). So, by the time she got in this morning, it was ready for paint.

Textured bathroom. Still wet, so it is shiny.

Meanwhile, this morning Chris and Eaton got all the texturing done (a light coat), in a brief moment of less-than-100% humidity. Soon as it’s dry, they can put primer over it and then actually paint all the areas that aren’t brick. That sure feels like progress.

It looks like an actual room now.

By the time I got to the house to work (had to do all my writing chores first), I saw that Chris had also gotten a start on the flooring. Ooh, aah, that’s going to look great, though it’s pretty complex to install it right (many different patterns, which make it look more natural).

Opening from Lee’s side.

They’d taken a break on that to finish the opening between the two offices and to put the crown molding (which I painted!) in Lee’s office. It will need a little filling, but will look super when it’s done.

Opening from Kathleen’s side.She plans to paint her side brown.
Alfred Vrazel, from polkabeat.com

All of this was taking place during Alfred Vrazel’s polka show playing on KMIL. It’s the nation’s longest-running radio polka show, you know. I kept hearing harmony that didn’t sound like it was coming from the radio. Hmm.

It turned out to be Kathleen, whose Czech heritage was coming out in a big way. It was wonderful to hear her singing along to the songs of her childhood. Now, that’s a true Texan.

I bet you didn’t spend your day with painting and polkas, but I assure you, it was a good way to spend a few hours. Like Mr. Vrazel said, you can’t go away from 2.5 hours of Czech polkas and waltzes and not be a bit happier.

Why I Had a Happy Childhood

Baby me and my father, Edwin Prince Kendall.

Things just hit you sometimes. Yesterday I was walking toward Rowdy the Rental Audi in the work parking garage, and I got a flashback of being a kid. I’d talked about missing my parents earlier in the day, which probably prompted the experience.

I suddenly felt the heavy weight of the humidity at my house in Gainesville, Florida, smelled the dark black earth, and heard the thump-thump of my dad, doing his favorite activity, known as “digging a hole.” If Dad was upset, frustrated, or just needed to get away from Mom’s antics for a while, he’d go out in the yard and dig. He used to joke that some of the camellias had been moved five or six times, for no good reason.

Here’s dad around my current age, telling me something I’m dubious about.
Continue reading “Why I Had a Happy Childhood”

History Lesson, Walker’s Creek Edition

Today my friend Melanie Reed, who’s a native to these parts, went with me over to the Milam County Museum to do some research on projects we are working on. She’s looking into the history of two parks in town, while I was looking to learn more about the old church and home we own in Cameron.

Postcard mailed in 1912 showing the building that once stood where our church is now.

I did find a postcard that was a picture of the First Christian Church building as it looked in the early twentieth century. That one burned down.

We met with Charles King, the director of the museum, who brought us some books with old photographs of the county. I was surprised to see so many large churches and schools in what are now tiny hamlets, like Maysfield and Milano. Charles and Melanie told me Milano (where our Master Naturalist Meetings are held) once had a population of 10,000! Wow! It’s between 200-300 now, though it seems like I keep meeting people who live there.

Charles was kind enough to dig up a book and newspaper article about the people who built our house on Gillis St., the Pope family. I’ll use that for my writing about that house on the Hermit Haus blog.

Continue reading “History Lesson, Walker’s Creek Edition”

Mysterious Flower Lady

I think I have too many reference materials. But I tell you what, I like that I’ve become so curious about the things I run across that I look into lots and lots of details. Today I’ll share what I learned about a humble painter of ceramics. And hey, if you know anyone from Gainesville, Florida, ask them about her.

These plates are in my bathroom. All were my mother’s. She was a big fan of purple. The three on the bottom were painted by Lula E. Moser.

I grew up in a house full of china with flowers all over it. My mother had a really impressive collection of decorative plates, cups, and saucers displayed throughout our home, and many sets of china, which my sister and I split. I can’t believe my brother and I didn’t break things, but I think we had a deep fear of touching breakable objects instilled in us from an early age.

I’ve been looking at t his lady, trying to figure out what she’s looking at, my whole life. She is French, from K&G Luneville, I’m guessing early twentieth century.

Mom had a strong set of likes, and those likes were very much like her embroidery themes: flowers, leaves, and more flowers. She had ONE plate with a person on it, this haunting blue scene of an 1890s style woman looking off in the distance. Of course I still have that. The blue lady originally belonged to my grandmother, so I know it’s old, but my limited French has stymied my attempt to pin down dates based on the back of the plate.

Yet another of Mom’s flower items covered with pansies. This was from the “random cup and saucer collection” that I still have more of at my dad’s old house.

So, where did Mom get all those flowery items?

The mysterious Lula E. Moser

Poorly lit, but this is another of the many pansy dishes my mother bought from Lula E. Moser.

My mother really liked hand-painted china (ceramics, really). She especially adored the work of one of her friends in Gainesville, Lula Moser. I can remember driving to her house more than once to get ceramics and painted china from her. I had a white bunny with blue eyes for years, which I think is the only non-flower item they ever got.

Now that I look at this, I see the artist signed it L.E. Moser. Hmm.

Mom had many, many plates with painted pansies or violets on them. The photos I’m sharing are NOT all of them by any means. As you may have guessed, I got most of them, because I happen to also like pansies and violets. This has led to all of my houses having something to do with flowers in their theme, since that’s what I have and I love it. When I see all those Lula E. Moser plates, I think of Mom, just like with the embroidery she did.

The street (Boulevard) where Lula Moser lived much of her life. It also happens to be where I hung out a LOT as a little kid.

I always wondered who Lula Moser was and why they were always visiting. So, who was Lula E. Moser? Good question. She was not a famous artist, but she sure loved painting ceramics. She was of my grandmother’s generation (born on my birthday, March 5, in 1903, in Ohio), and my sister tells me she lived in one of those lovely old houses across from the duck pond (also known as my favorite place on this here earth). Canova also said Lula was a beautiful woman with very white hair.

This map shows you many things. Like that Lula lived between my house and my grandmother’s house. ALSO! The park I played in as a kid is now named after TOM PETTY!

From my sleuthing I discovered she was briefly married to a man named Frank Parker (an Austrian, originally named Frank Joseph Paukert), who was a television camera operator way back in the 50s. I actually found this info on his naturalization form when he became a US citizen.

Most of her life, though, Lula lived alone in a big house, painting ceramics and talking to my grandmother and mother. My sister says that on most visits, they came home with a new object.

This is her parents’ headstone. Sadly, there are no photos of her headstone, or of her, that I can find.

Lula died in 1989 and is buried in Ohio, where apparently the rest of her family lived. Why did she stay in Gainesville all those years, alone? A woman of mystery. Maybe I’ll name the woman on my blue plate Lula.

More on my nature art tomorrow. This got long.

PS: Want to know more about the beauty of old Gainesville, Florida? Check out the B&B that used to be the “haunted hippie house” across the street from my grandmother.

Arts? Crafts? All in the Family

This is the kind of thing my house is full of. It’s a very large needlepoint of pansies that I did when my kids were young, The canvas is from an Irish artist.

One thing my genealogy forays didn’t turn up is the fact that I’m descended from a long line of artists, mostly fiber arts, but many other types as well. What got me thinking of this was looking around my Bobcat Lair rooms and realizing that most all of the art is by someone I know, much of it by relatives. Granted, some of it may be “crafts” to some of you (needlework kits and such), but it’s all art to me, because the makers had lots of design decisions to make, even in a kit.

Let me introduce you to a few of my talented family members, then I’ll share some art by friends and acquaintances in another post. Note that most of the pictures don’t go with the text, since some of the things I talk about don’t have photos to go with them.

This is my prized tatted doily from Aunt Susie. It’s one of the larger ones I have.
Susan Canova

My maternal side in Florida was a bunch of crazed crafters/artists. The foremost in my mind was my great-aunt Susan Canova. Because of her mental health issues, she was mostly confined to her home (she liked to take stuff). But she made a living for herself by creating amazing table cloths, beadspreads, blankets, curtains and trim. I am happy to have a number of pieces of her tatting, a linen tablecloth with filet crochet borders, and other treasures. She was very productive, and I think it’s really cool that she made a good life for herself despite her problems.

Continue reading “Arts? Crafts? All in the Family”

Old Catholic Cemeteries

Yesterday was certainly the most active Christmas I’d spent in a long time. That’s great, because going on walks with my kids is among the greatest pleasures in my life. I love listening to them talk about their lives, about local history, and about the plants and animals we see along the way.

Another beautiful old stone, right next to what appears to be an old windmill, which was converted to a bathroom, Not a nice one, according to my kids.

The house we are staying in has views of the local Catholic cemetery, past the radio station. So, while our turkey was cooking, we took a walk over to see it. There were many, many headstones in the local granite, so the colors were nice. There obviously weren’t too many Catholic families, since certain names repeated often, such as Klein. There were many, many Klein graves.

Many of the beautiful grave markers in this cemetery are in German.

There was a very large section of children’s graves, which made me sort of sad. You could tell when that flu epidemic occurred in the early 1900s. Declan and Rylie took a lot of artistic photos of each other, which is a charming thing they like to do. Kynan had gone running, which is also a thing he likes to do, but he joined us at the end.

Continue reading “Old Catholic Cemeteries”

Skeletons in the Closet?

When I started looking into my family history, I figured I would mostly find a lot of regular folks, farmers, etc. And that’s mostly what I found. I mean, aren’t most of us descended from regular folks?

Regular folks (farmers): Wilburn Larkin Kendall & Minty Viola Tilley Kendall, 1900. He as 20, she 23. My dad’s paternal grandparents.

But I also found some things that made me sad. The biggest one was finding people who had slaves, on both sides of the family. You can easily spot them if you look at census data, since it conveniently lists slaves as household members. Of course, now that I mention it, I can’t FIND any of them again. 

Because this is the way my mind goes, I began processing my white guilt a bit more. Now that I know there are a lot of indentured servants, plus genuine white slaves brought to America for nefarious purposes, and I also know that some of my ancestors in the southern US had slaves in their households, I began to wonder if it’s why I had such a strong reaction to the civil rights movement of the sixties.

I can remember being really angry at kids who weren’t nice to the black students in elementary school (we integrated in fourth grade). I’ve always had some sort of visceral reaction to people who are treated badly just because of how they look, where they come from, what spiritual path they are on, or who they love. Hmm, maybe it comes through the genes after all.

Back to ancestors

I digress. What I did find on my dad’s side of the family were more soldiers than I’d anticipated, but really, they were during times when most everyone was participating in military action. 

War Hero with very long name.

Speaking of skeletons in the closet, of course I found a couple of Civil War heroes lurking on Dad’s side, where there was a lot of action in north Georgia. There was my second great grandfather, Captain William Greenbury Lafayette Butt, of Union Georgia (where a LOT of ancestors settled in the early 1700s). He was on the losing side of that war. In fascinating additional news, his father was a postmaster, and also rather decorated: Judge Major John Butt III. Whew.

I also found soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War where the US broke from England. One example is Henry Tilley, Sr., in my grandmother’s line, who had five sons who fought in the Revolutionary War. On the Kendall side, my fifth great grandfather, William Kendall, appears to have died from war injuries in 1777. I think they were on the winning side.

Enoch de Melvin Underwood

On the Kendall side, there was 
Enoch De Melvin Underwood, who fought in the war of 1812. He was a warrior! He is buried in the Tilley cemetary in Union County, Georgia, where a butt-load of family members are (ha ha, many of them are Butts).

I guess that makes me a daughter of all those wars, but I’m not planning to join any clubs. I’m not really big on wars in general. But I do understand that, when everyone is participating, it’s a good idea to participate.

Anyway, the Kendalls appear to have arrived in the Virginia Colonies in the mid 1600s, so the family’s been here a while. Those Kendalls kept good records, because they  keep going and going until Richard Kendall, who was born in 1355! They also confused me, because in the 1700s a Kendall married a Kendall…possibly another skeleton in the closet? Why YES! John Kendall of the Revolutionary War, above, shows up in both lines!

Since this took me three days to write, I am going to stop. I hope you are able to find out where your ancestors came from and what they did. It can be interesting! Even if some of them were on the “wrong” side of history, it’s part of the story of who we are.