Anthroponymics -- U.S.American laws about "first" and "last" names and name-changes
|From:||Tom Chappell <tomhchappell@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, October 26, 2005, 0:16|
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Mark J. Reed" <markjreed@G...> wrote:
> In the US you can change your entire name on basically any grounds, although
> the specific laws vary from locale to locale.http://www.scstatehouse.net/code/t15c049.htm
is an example.
is something else to look at.
will give you the law of any particular state.
includes the following Michigan provision which isn't part of the
South Carolina statute:
"(4) The court may permit a person having the same name, or a similar name to that
which the petitioner proposes to assume, to intervene in the proceeding ... "
allows a child's foster and surrogate and biological parents and their
spouses to be heard by the court before a child's name is changed.
Apparently it also specifically allows abandonment by a parent or
failure to support a child as good reasons for changing the child's
Washington District of Columbia includes the following;
"§ 16-2502. Notice; contents.
Prior to a hearing pursuant to this chapter, notice of the filing of the
application, containing the substance and prayer thereof, shall be published
once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper in general circulation
published in the District. (Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 595, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1;
1973 Ed., § 16-2502.) D.C. Code Ann. § 16-2502 (1999) "
"In some States, these laws do not prevent an individuals common law right to
change his name without resorting to a judicial proceeding.
Name changes are not approved if a change interferes with the rights of others or
is for a wrongful or a fraudulent purpose.
says how to change __both__ the _name_ __and__ the ___sex___
____on the birth certificate____.
Essentially, you may /not/ change your name in order to escape
justice (whether criminal or civil), or to defraud, or for "frivolous reasons".
However, the appropriate judge decides whether or not your
reasons are "frivolous"; and there is, in most U.S.American
jurisdictions, a habit of accepting any reason you are willing to
write down, depose, and swear to as non-frivolous (provided you don't
do it too often.)
Getting married and changing your, or your children's, name(s) to
your spouse's name, is traditionally regarded as "non-frivolous" and
also sometimes does not require as big a fee nor as much judicial red-
tape. The same is true of resuming your former name after a divorce.
Note that Jack White of the White Stripes changed his last name to
match his ex-wife's (Meg White, also of the White Stripes) when they
married, rather than the other way around. Also, John Lennon and
Yoko Ono both adopted the hyphenated Ono-Lennon as their new surname
when they married.
According to the online information about Oliver Cromwell, this was
what happened in his case too; he and his siblings were named after
their mother rather than their father, because their father had too
much royal blood from too many cadet (or illegitimate) lines of royalty.
If true, this was the opposite of the circumstances usual when a medieval husband
adopted his wife's maiden surname; ordinarily if this was done it was because a
higher-ranking wife was the only surviving child of her higher-ranking parents,
or the oldest daughter of higher-ranking parents who had no sons.
> You just have to jump through
> the appropriate legal hoops and pony up the fee, which also varies from
> locale to locale but is generally on the order of $100. Of course, if you
> get a lawyer's assistance on the legal hoop-jumping you have to pay them,
> On 10/25/05, veritosproject@g... <veritosproject@g...> wrote:
> > Gmail alert--check reply-to.
> > I know you can change your last name on basically any grounds in the
> > US, but given names I'm not sure about.
> > On 10/25/05, João Ricardo de Mendonça <somnicorvus@g...> wrote:
> >> This dscussion of given names prompts me to ask a question. What are
> >> the rules for oficially changing one's name in your country? In
> >> Brazil, you must prove to a judge that your name is embarassing or
> >> that it harms your reputation in some way. I remember reading in the
> >> newspapers about a man named Adolf Hitler who succesfully changed his
> >> name on these grounds. Do other countries have similar laws?
> >> João Ricardo de Mendonça
> >> On 10/16/05, John Vertical <johnvertical@h...> wrote:
> >>>>How many first names can people have in different nooks of the world?
As for what your given name has to be,
(not otherwise a good source for those who prefer their pots to have no cracks in them)
'Black's Law Dictionary, "Christian name": "The baptismal name as distinct from the
surname. The name which is given one after his birth or at baptism, or is
afterward assumed by him in addition to his family name. Such name may consist
of a single letter."'
> >>>>Nowadays Swedes can have any number from one upwards, but most have
> >>>>only two. (I and my son have three each, but I never use Jung 'coz
> >>>>most people -- even Swedes -- think it's a surname.)
> >>> In Finland, the standard is two first names, but one and three are
> > also
> >>> allowed by law. I think joint names such as Jean-François count as
> > two, but
> >>> don't hold me on that.
> >>>>BTW there is on record a Swede having 29 names -- one for each letter
> >>>>of the Swedish alphabet [A-ZÅÄÖ]!
> >>>>/BP 8^)>
> >>> That reminds me - I read from an old (70s I think) copy of Guiness
> > World
> >>> Records that a Pennsylvanian man born in 1904 had the longest known
> > personal
> >>> name, and he also had first names for every letter of the alphabet.
> > But it
> >>> was his family name that was the totally insane one. I think I wrote
> > it down
> >>> somewhere ...
> >>> OK, here goes:
> >>> [snip]...
> > Senior.
> >>> My German is a little rusty (OK, a lot rusty) - can anyone provide a
> >>> translation of the family name?
> >>> John Vertical
> Mark J. Reed <markjreed@m...>
"In France, until January 1, 2005, children were required by law to
take the surname of their father."
it seems possible (though I don't know that it's true) that in
Louisiana and/or other jurisdictions of U.S.America where Napoleonic
Code rather than Common Law is the basic law of the state, a person
may be required to have a surname.
( http://www.answers.com/topic/family-name )
(BTW now they must have the family name of either parent, or of both parents hyphenated.)
makes it appear that this is indeed the case:
"(a) Full name of child.
(i) If the child dies without a first name before the certificate is filed, enter
the words "died unnamed" in this blank.
(ii) If the living child has not yet been given a first name at the date of filing
of the certificate, leave blank the space for the first name of the child and
supply the name later by affidavit.
(iii) Except as otherwise provided in Items (vi) and (vii) of this Subparagraph, the
surname of the child shall be the surname of the husband of the mother if he
was married to the mother of the child at the time of conception and birth of
the child or had not been legally divorced from the mother of the child for
more than three hundred days prior to the birth of the child, or, if both the
husband and the mother agree, the surname of the child may be the maiden name
of the mother or a combination of the surname of the husband and the maiden
name of the mother.
(iv) If the child is born outside of marriage, the surname of the child shall be
the mother's maiden name. If the father is known and if both the mother and the
father agree, the surname of the child may be that of the father or a
combination of the surname of the father and the maiden name of the mother. For
purposes of this Item, "father" means a father who has acknowledged his child
or who has been judicially declared the father in a filiation or paternity
(v) Any change in the surname of a child from that required herein or to that
allowed herein shall be by court order as provided for in R.S. 13:4751 through
4755 or as otherwise provided in this Chapter or by rules promulgated
(vi) Notwithstanding the provisions of Item (B)(1)(a)(iii), and except as otherwise
provided in Item (B)(1)(a)(vii), if the father of the child is not the husband
of the mother, the surname of the child may be the maiden name of the mother,
or, if the mother, husband, and father agree, the surname of the child may be
that of the father or a combination of the surname of the father and the maiden
name of the mother. The Department of Health and Hospitals, office of public
health, shall develop a form for the purposes of implementing this Item.
However, the provisions of this Item shall be limited to cases wherein the
husband and mother have lived separate and apart continuously for a minimum of
one hundred eighty days prior to the time of conception of the child and have
not reconciled since the beginning of the one hundred eighty-day period, as
evidenced by an affidavit of the parties submitted to the registrar.
(vii) In the case of a child born of the marriage, which includes cases where both a
person, presumed to be the father pursuant to the Civil Code, and a biological
father exist, the surname of the child's biological father who has been
judicially declared to be the father of the child in a filiation or paternity
proceeding, either prior or subsequent to the birth of the child, shall be the
surname of the child, if the biological father has sole or joint custody of the
child and the presumed father, if any, is no longer married to the mother. If
the biological father and the mother agree, the surname of the child shall be
the maiden name of the mother or a combination of the surname of the biological
father and the maiden name of the mother. The child's mother, the husband of
the mother, and the biological father shall be indispensable parties in a
filiation or paternity proceeding brought under this Item, except when parental
rights have been terminated or the person is d!
(viii) In the case of a child born of a surrogate birth parent who is a blood
relative of a biological parent, the surname of the child's biological parents
shall be the surname of the child.
However I find nothing on-line that requires persons in American
states with British-descended Common Law to have surnames or family-
In fact just the contrary seems to be hinted at here:
which says, among other things,
"In english-language cultures, names generally comprise one or more Christian,
first, given or fore-names, and a one-word (sometimes two-word or hyphenated)
surname. In Britain, a 'Christian name' was and is that provided at the time of
baptism. If the child was not baptised, or no name was given at baptism, then a
name is gained by 'repute', i.e. by usage. Whether or not a person has a
Christian name, and whether or not he or she uses it, alternative and
additional names may be used, without restraint by the law. In short, there is
nothing illegal about the use of an alias or 'aka' (also-known-as), although
acts which involve the use of an alias may be."
"In 1465, Edward IV created what appears to have been the first statute law
relating to names, by requiring that every Irishman take to himself an English
surname. One of the key steps in entrenching the use of surnames was the
requirement enacted in 1538, in the reign of Henry VIII, that (Anglican) parish
priests keep registers of births, deaths and marriages. Birth entries were to
include the surnames of the parents."
(But note: (1) unless one of them was Irish there was no law saying either of them
had to have a surname; (2) "(children born out of wedlock technically did not
have a surname, although they commonly gained their mother's or adoptive
parents' surname by repute).")
"the validity or criminality of any act is unaffected by the use of a name: ' ...
(provided always that no question of deception or fraud enters into the matter)
an act done in any name holds for good or bad equally with an act done in a
genuine name' "
"Under the common law, anyone may take on whatever surname, and as many surnames, as
he or she pleases. In various jurisdictions, exceptions to that rule have been
created by statute."
"It is curious that, despite all the complexities of law regarding the registered
name-at-birth, in few jurisdictions is there any compulsion to ever use it, and
it has very limited official force. In general, a person is free to establish
any name 'by reputation', that is to say, by using it consistently, if only
within some particular context. Legal mechanisms are available whereby a person
may evidence that he has changed his name, or that he consistently uses a name,
in particular the deed poll."
"The effect is that, with minor exceptions, there may be such a thing as 'the legal
name of a person', but there is no compulsion to use it, and no prohibition on
using any other name or names instead, or as well. Examples of this are seen
when the press reports that a person has been arrested and charged with a
variety of offences in a variety of States under a variety of names. A person
may, in general, use any name he or she wishes to, provided he or she does not
thereby attempt to defraud."
And sums it all up with:
"As a basis for identification, names lack constancy and reliability. Moreover,
many other difficulties arise.
The legal and administrative systems of many countries in which anglo-saxon-celtic
traditions dominate continue to have difficulty with non-European names, which
may, for example:
have different sequences (e.g. <family name> may appear first);
have additional components in the name (e.g. a name of religious rather than
be incomplete (e.g. there may be no <family name>);
be assigned in unfamiliar ways (e.g. the surname may come from the matriarchal
rather than patriarchal line, or by leap-frogging generations);
change in ways or at times foreign to local traditions (e.g. at puberty); and
be variable depending on the context (e.g. by omitting the religious component).
So, it may be said that, in U.S.America generally,
* a person need not have a (Christian name or first name or forename or given
name or personal name);
* a person need not have a (family name or surname);
* a person may be required to have one or the other -- I suppose this may vary
from jurisdiction to jurisdiction --, but, if so, it may be only a single
* a person may choose his or her own name, or have it given to him or her
informally by the community (just like a nickname); in addition to the various
formal means by which a person may be named;
* couples when marrying may adopt a completely new surname, or hyphenate or
otherwise compound their pre-marriage surnames, or the husband may take the
surname of the wife; in addition to the wife taking the surname of the husband;
* a child may be given the surname of either or both parents (which may have
been changed by marriage before the child was born); or may be given no
* a person may have as many (Christian names or first names or forenames or
given names or personal names) as his or her life-history turns out to give him
* a person may likewise have as many (family names or surnames) as his or her
life-history turns out to give him or her.
Tom H.C. in MI
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