Grandma's picture

Grandma's picture
Grandma's Passport photo

Monday, October 20, 2014

9 - What's in a Name?

This week I got an email from one of my cousins, asking why I was calling Grandma "Cecile". He always thought her name was "Cecilia".

An interesting question. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be worth an explanation in this story. Here are my thoughts.

Names are interesting, they are given to us, we don't have much choice in the matter. Occasionally people decide for various reasons to have them legally changed to something else. Sometimes either people just decide they want to be called something else or sometimes it just evolves - to a nickname. Nicknames can be a variation of the original name (Ronald, Ronnie, Ron), something that a person is known for (Squeak, High Pockets, Shorty, Red) or just a name that comes from who knows where (Bud, Bubba, Dutch, you name it). Some people prefer their middle name and switch to using it.

Then there are spelling and pronunciation issues. How is a name properly spelled? When I was in grade school, it seemed like each name had a proper spelling and that was it. Anything else was a misspelling. I suppose there have always been exceptions. Today some names are spelled the way they sound, or seem to the more "old-fashioned" among us - including myself! - as truly made-up and who knows how they should be pronounced! Of course, there are also language factors - how is a name spelled in a different language?

All of these nuances can be real pain when one is doing family history work. Trying to find names in records when they could be spelled wrong, or changed for almost as many reasons as there are applications makes for an interesting search at times!

So what do I know about Grandma's name? The oldest record I have of her name is on her school report card for the year 1890-91. 
Grandma's report card
It is written as Schiebel Cazilia. On the document where she immigrated to the USA at Ellis Island in 1901, she is entered as Cecilie Schiebel.  On her marriage certificate it is spelled Caecilia Schiebel. Early postcards to her were addressed to Cazilia, Cacelia, Cilly, Cilli, Zilly, Zazelia, you get the idea. Her brothers and sisters seemed to call her Zilly a lot of the time. She signs some of her cards and letters as "Z", which I think is pretty cool. I like the letter "z". I have it in my name and it is not that common in names. Maybe that's why I like it.
Grandma's name in 1901 ship register


Most important here is the spelling and her signature on her passport. If you've recently used a passport, you know how important name spelling is. Everything needs to match exactly or you could find yourself in trouble. On her passport, it is printed and signed as Cecile Beitel. How did she pronounce it when she was signing it? It could be "Seh seel", like Lucille. It might be "Seh seel ee". The latter would be my guess.

However it got that way on her passport, that's the way it officially was for this trip, so that's the way I will spell it for this story. What do I think it "officially" was? I would say it was Cecilia, in English. At least that's my guess!

Don't forget, if you want to see the inserts closer, just click on either of them.
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Story to be continued......
To read Post "10 -  Minna's Letter - 6 May 1936" click here

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