Changing names

There was an article in the paper today about people changing their names when they marry; it has been traditional and customary for women to take the surnames of their husband – I think for many women in the past they might even have thought it was a legal requirement for them to do so. I’m not sure it ever was, but maybe it was so. Certainly I don’t think it would ever have occurred for my mother or aunties or my mother-in-law and her sisters  not to take their new husband’s name.

I have always felt a very strong attachment to my surname of Elsden; I know it was my father’s family name, and he was only half of who made me, but I have never ever felt a Matthews, which was my mother’s ‘maiden’ name. I remember once, many years before I was married having a conversation with an older woman and said that when or if I married, I wouldn’t take my husband’s name. She was shocked, outraged almost, as if had insulted her and she declared that she was ‘proud’ to take her husband’s name. In the event, when I did marry, I kept my own name… until we had children and then I changed it by adding my husband’s surname, so it would be less confusing in school. I did however insist they had Elsden as part of their name too!

These days it’s very common for women to keep their own name, or to add their husband’s name to it, and in some cases, the husband takes her name too – and in some very rare cases, changes his name to hers! The person writing in the paper today had a very common surname, and a not very unusual first name, so he had suffered a life of muddle and confusion with people sending him things in error, or things which should have come to him going to another person with the same name. He was very willing to change his name to his partner’s, except she had a very common name too! They had a lot of discussions about what to do, trying to mix the names together, having them as double-barrelled, and then they hit on the idea of looking at their family trees, and seeing if their were any names which appealed. They were delighted to find that her mother’s ‘maiden’ name was just perfect! Very unusual, but easy to pronounce and spell correctly! Hurrah! Decision made! He changed his name by deed-poll and then when they married she took ‘his’ name, which was in fact her own mother’s!

Name changing is an important theme of my latest book, Magick; one woman changes her name to something different from her father, a young woman marries several times, each time taking her husband’s name, and changing her identity along with her name… Thomas Radwinter, the main character also changes his name from time to time, becoming Taras Radwinski, one of his own ancestors.

Cover Magick


  1. david lewis

    When I applied for my first Visa credit card years ago I was asked for my middle initial. I told them that I was born in England and didn’t have a middle name because my parents couldn’t afford one. They insisted so I chose one. Good thing I didn’t have a hyphenated name as it wouldn’t fit on the card. Ponder on that Wois.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. anne54

    I was pondering this just today! I have been to three weddings recently and in each marriage the woman has taken her husband’s surname. That really surprised me. One woman was in her 50s and thought how odd that she wanted to change the name she has had for 50 odd years. No way would I like to change my name. On the other hand, I know of someone who went through a very messy divorce and not only changed her surname, taking her grandmother’s maiden name, but also changed her first name!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      How exciting for her! I wonder if she felt like a really different person having a new life and a new name? I once knew of a woman who changed her first name to Lawrence because she liked it – a bit confusing I’d have thought!


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