Saturday, August 25, 2007

French twist on surnames

A recently married woman in Quebec wants to change her surname to her new husband's name. However, she isn't allowed to by Quebec law.
In provinces where common law prevails, a woman can simply begin using her husband's surname after marriage. Armed with a copy of their provincially issued marriage certificate, a woman can easily acquire new identification for other documents such as a driver's licence.

But in Quebec, since a 1981 reform of the civil law, women are not permitted to adopt their husband's name at marriage, not even if they apply for an official name change.


The rationale given is 'gender equality.'
Procedures for any formal name change are very strict in Quebec, and the decision is up [to] the director of civil status. It requires a serious reason, such as difficulty of use due to spelling or pronunciation, or bearing a name that is mocked or that has been made infamous.
Reading this I think to myself, "this certainly makes things easier for genealogists," but then I find a letter to the editor a few days later. Apparently hyphenated surnames for children are a common solution, resulting in the following:

Their children will have to take her surname, his surname, or both. When their child marries the offspring of another couple married in Quebec, let's say a Sophie Gray-Bertrand, their grandchildren could be called Parent-Lamirande, Gray-Bertrand, Parent-Gray, Lamirande-Bertrand or any combination of these composed names - but only keeping two surnames.

When Caroline and Karl's grandchildren have children, the family surnames get further diluted, especially if these grandchildren also marry someone with a composed name, as they can only keep two surnames.

Imagine the convoluted family histories if all of their descendants opt for different combinations of these composed names.

Oy! Let's see. The sixteen surnames of my great-great-grandparents, assuming no name changes would be allowed: Newmark, Sundberg, Blatt, Wyman, Cruvant, Mojsabovski, Dudelsack, Perlik, Deutsch, Weiss, Lichtman, Adler, Van Every, Stuart, Heartley, Denyer. Which two would I choose? I wonder which two my siblings would choose. My cousins would have different choices.

Actually, we'd only have four surnames to choose from, depending upon what surnames our parents had chosen, and their parents. But everyone in my generation could have a different last name.

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