Naming conundrum...

Here is my question: if you were planning on using a family name for your child, but then found out that the person who had that name wasn’t exactly nice, would you still use the name? (this being a relative that you never knew personally)

Ha! There is a name I really love, but I have two rather nasty relatives with that name. The name is [name]George[/name]. Also I love [name]Georgia[/name], but it sounds like [name]George[/name]. My really nice relatives are [name]Albert[/name], [name]Flora[/name], [name]Grace[/name], [name]Bernard[/name], [name]Elaine[/name], [name]Helen[/name], [name]Hilton[/name], [name]Ruby[/name], and [name]Kirby[/name]. I had an aunt named [name]Beatrice[/name] who was very piggy. [name]Love[/name] my father’s name [name]Kenneth[/name], but my father could be very odd at times.

Bummer. Personally, I would give up on it. That’s the reason I can never use [name]Arthur[/name] or [name]Edward[/name], and I really love them both.

I have an estranged aunt named [name]Lyla[/name]. I really like that name a lot, and she never did anything bad to me personally, but she’s persona non grata so I have to strike it from my list. I guess that’s different. There are other people in my family with good names who I wouldn’t particularly want to “honor” coincidentally above other people. Nobody in my family that I hate. I almost had in-laws of whom I would try not to repeat any of their names, none of them had great names. Who knows what in-laws I could get someday.

If everyone in the family knows this person to have been not too nice and it would make it weird, then I’d skip it. If most people liked this person but you found out something bad about their character, and then would people think it was a great choice for a namesake, or just coincidental? [name]How[/name] close is this relative to your other close relatives, I mean, and how many people think of them as a bad person?

The namesake I’m debating was my great-grandma on my mom’s side. I don’t think too many people knew her particularly well so I doubt many people would know her character faults. I just found out a week or two that she was verbally cruel to my grandma and gave strong preferential treatment to her brother, my great-uncle.

My mom and my grandma know of this, but if any of the rest of that side of the family know, I don’t know because they live far away and we rarely hear from them.

I’m just really bummed out to find this out, especially because I had actually admired my great-grandma: she was a teen immigrant from [name]Sweden[/name] and was incredibly beautiful in her youth. She had an unexplained mystery surrounding her birth and I always thought she was a strong person to transcend that and make her own way in the world.

My mom said I should use the name anyway, but it feels tainted to me now and I’m not sure what to do. :frowning:

You have a very interesting conundrum, indeed. Here’s the problem: people are complicated. Your ancestor may well have been a very mysterious and strong woman. She also may have been cruel at times.

I don’t think it’s wrong to want to honor people for their good qualities, as long as it won’t unduly pain those whom they have hurt. [name]Do[/name] you think your grandparents would be appalled that you named your child after their mother? Or could they look beyond the cruelty and see her good qualities that are worth being honored?

You might talk to them about this. If they’re open, you should feel free to use the name. We are all a crazy mixture of good and bad qualities. I think naming a child after a relative is a wonderful tribute to whatever they have that is good in them.

If the name is going to remind you personally of negative things about another person of the same name, I would avoid it. There are just some times when you can let it go and sometimes when you cannot. I don’t know if this is one of those times. Well, if you had had your daughter and given her the name before you found out the bad stuff, would you feel ok with it or worse?

I think in the sense here, that you are experiencing some sort of shock with this news and it will take time to just let the past go back in the past. If the person who was abused is still alive, I wouldn’t anyway, but sometimes, it just takes time to wear off the stunning info. Is it possible to detach the name from the person, or on the outset was it to honor your great-grandma?

I personally have this variation of my mom’s name that I love, and the honor would be coincidental. I go back and forth whether I could let her pretend it was an honor, even if I knew it was not. Part of me thinks it’s nice anyway to have a family name, but part of me won’t really want to give her the satisfaction. I’m not even in your position where this affects other people’s impression of your daughter-to-be.

I feel your pain! Two of my favorite names are off limits because of not-so-nice people in my family tree - [name]Hazel[/name] and [name]Edward[/name]. For me, it’s not worth it to cause my family to remember painful memories when I announce the name of my child. But I also think that by bestowing the name on a beautiful grandchild, you could be “reclaiming” the name. If your mother and grandmother are okay with it, I say use the name.

If you really love the name, and didn’t know the relative personally, then I think you could possibly still use it. I don’t know if you read the Nameberry Blog about giving your child the name of an ex-boyfriend, but I think the same applies here - your child will be so important to you, and so individual, that you probably will only think of them when you use the name and not the unpleasant relative.
However, if you are at all worried that it could be a problem, why not try the name out for the first month or so, and if it is still spoiled by the relative, then change your baby’s name (it really doesn’t matter if you do this when your child is very young, just explain to friends and family that you may do this beforehand, so that they don’t get confused/annoyed).
Of course, you should take into account whether other members of your family knew this relative and would be upset by the name when they heard it, and exactly how bad the relative was (argumentative and drank too much can be forgiven, mass-murderer probably less so).

Thank you all for your input. I agree that the shock of finding this out is probably making it a bigger deal than it is. As far as I know, my grandmother wouldn’t care if I used the name, but I will talk to her.

Thank you again for your perspectives and ideas!