She Picked A New Last Name. Not Her Maiden Name. Not Her Married Name. Something New.

Have you ever considered picking a new last name? I’m not talking about hyphens or married names. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered a new, totally different name than you have now.

Why am I asking? Well, it’s because my friend Lyna just announced on Facebook that she has changed her last name. And I keep thinking about it, because it’s an out of the ordinary situation. Usually new names come with a big life moment, like the change in marital status, or a birth. But that’s not the case for Lyna. She felt she needed a new surname, so she changed it. Done.

I think I’m kind of in awe. Technically, I guess I knew that it’s possible for anyone to change their name at anytime. I just haven’t seen it done. After watching Lyna, I’m wondering why doesn’t this happen more often? It has me thinking about names and how much they can affect us or even help to transform us.

In Lyna’s case, it was fun for me to realize that her new name fits her perfectly. In fact, it seems like such a natural fit that I can’t believe it wasn’t already her name. I asked Lyna if she would share her story — the reason she decided to choose a new name — and she sent over a beautiful mini-essay. I know you’ll love it.

Why I Changed My Name: Not Maiden or Married Name. Something New.

Before we jump in, here are 6 things about Lyna so you can get to know her:

1) Lyna lived in New York for many years (we met when I lived there too). 2) Lyna is French. She was raised in Normandy and came to America as an adult. 3) Yes, she’s effortlessly gorgeous and has an amazing accent that makes you just want to listen and nod in agreement. 4) Yes, she knows everything you expect French women to know about luxury beauty goods. 5) Lyna is a deep thinker who consistently practices being open to spiritual inspiration. 6) Lyna now lives with her two daughters in the South of France, and seeing her photos and updates is a bright spot in my day.

Here’s what Lyna wrote:

Hi! My name is Lyna Rose and I have recently changed my name.

The process of changing my name began to blossom a few months ago when I felt that my birth name no longer evoked the person that I had become.

I began to sense an innermost pull to take on a new name but I was wavering between several ones. None of them felt completely like me and I don’t believe in forcing things into being.

So l let Life steep its wild and magic imagination, generous inspiration, and perfect guidance within my heart, trusting that if it was meant to be…it would be revealed…and sure enough it showed up!

One morning a few weeks ago, I saw my daughter’s step-mother interacting with her on social media and I kept my gaze on her last name, which was still mine as well. I had kept my married name to facilitate life’s every day tasks for my two daughters and me.

I thought, “This beautiful woman deserves to be the only Mrs. Jones right now!” 

I knew it was time to change my name out of respect for the father of my daughters, his lovely wife, and the woman I had become.

Through this name change, I believe that life has given me a gift of rebirth: magnifying and amplifying the personal healing I had gifted myself for years.

Almost as if Life was telling me, “Here. I’m taking off the rest of the heavy load so that your past may feel a little lighter, a little brighter. You have owned your past with pride and you have been sternly dedicated to your healing process. Let me lighten your load up a bit.”

My maiden name was soaked with three generations of female psychologic wounds. May I mention also that it was randomly given to my mother by my grand-mother’s husband at the time (my mother never knew her biological father) so it had nothing to do with the fountain of my veins in the first place.

Through genealogical research, I’ve recently found out that Rose was an ancestral last name and that’s what I chose. I like to believe I was meant to be a rose all along.

The idea of changing my name felt rather awkward until the merge became right and natural — the new name then became a second skin and a departure from a loaded familial past. 

I would highly recommend it to anyone who feels the deep pull of transformation and who also feels that their essence slash persona expands way beyond the confines of their birth name, because anything that will support the growth of loving and limitless wings is holy. 

May we all continue to rise victorious from our past, in love and in joy.

—- 

Thank you so much, Lyna. This line is especially gracious and admirable: “I knew it was time to change my name out of respect for the father of my daughters, his lovely wife, and the woman I had become.” And I think the name Rose fits you beautifully.

What about you, Dear Readers? I know many of us grew up with the idea that our name is some sort of unchangeable fact, but in reality it’s totally flexible and we’re in charge of what it is. I mean, I know there’s a stack of paperwork involved, but at the end of the day it’s a doable thing.

You know that saying we all learned in Kindergarten: sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me? Well, I’ve lived long enough to know that’s not true. What we call each other can hurt or heal, and having a name that you love and that feels empowering to you makes a lot of sense. I happen to like my name, but if I ever decided I didn’t, I hope I would change it and not let it bog me down.

What about you? Have you ever considered choosing an entirely new last name (or first name)? If yes, what might bring you to change it? And how would you feel if someday your kids want to change their names?

One last question: If you had to pick a new last name, what would you pick? Something from your genealogy chart? How about Hamilton or Washington or Tubman — something with some American History to it? Your favorite author — Adichie or Fitzgerald or Marquez? Something from nature? I’d love to hear your thoughts on names.

P.S. — The best nicknames.

84 thoughts on “She Picked A New Last Name. Not Her Maiden Name. Not Her Married Name. Something New.”

  1. I read something about Cheryl Strayed doing that and was equally fascinated by the whole idea – I LOVE It!

    Lyna Rose is a beautiful name – I’m glad she did what’s best, and I think it’s a wonderful inspiration for her daughters as well. :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think this is a great idea if you don’t want to keep your birth name for any reason. But I love my name (and had already established myself as a writer when I got married), so I never, ever considered giving it up. My son has my husband’s last name, and that’s fine. And maybe if we have another kid it will get my last name as a middle name, and maybe not. But to me, my name is so much a part of my identity, it wouldn’t have worked for me to give it up.

    1. I hear you. Sometimes a name becomes an investment, especially after years and years of promotion and marketing. It makes the idea of changing a name a totally different prospect.

      1. Definitely. But even before I was a writer, I knew I’d never change my name. I honestly think it has to do with the fact that I very clearly remember going with my mom to the Social Security office to get her name back after she and my dad divorced. I was five or six, maybe, and I remember thinking, “Why would you ever change it in the first place?”

  3. Susan Magnolia

    When I divorced I decided I did not want to keep my former husband’s last name and did not want to go back to father’s last name so after the proceedings ended I paid to have my last name changed. I chose Magnolia which was grandmother’s name. I loved it and decided to make it my own. Later when I had a child we considered a new family name but decided it was too much name changing. 😀

  4. Karen Rustað Tölva

    My husband and I chose a new family name together when we got married. I didn’t want to take his name, while he wanted to have a shared family name. He could have taken mine, but instead we were able to come up with a brand new name that we both liked. We got it changed after the wedding — if we’d been clever, one of us would have changed it beforehand, so that we could have saved half the court fees. :P

    Tölva in Icelandic means “computer”, or “number seeress”. Husband and I are both programmers, so I guess it’s an occupational name. :)

    A fun thing that we discovered while researching new names is that the meaning/spelling of my original surname has drifted–it’s something like “east farm” now in Norwegian, but in Icelandic (which has changed less from the shared original Norse) this spelling means “devastated” or “ruined”. So I use my maiden and last names together professionally, because it reads as “Karen Busted Computer”!

  5. I changed my name through the court system a couple and it was wayyyy easier than I thought. I loved being in the courtroom on that day when others were also having their names finalized and seeing what it meant to everyone. There were some mundane (mine) and some gendered/non-gendered names swapped and some families doing it together but you could feel the excitement for these shiny new names.

    I can’t help but sing “Lisa Rose” from The Music Man when I see your friend’s new name- it’s a beautiful song. Maybe I’m the only one :)

    1. The only name change I remember having to deal with is Maude’s name. We were pressured to pick a name before we left the hospital and put down Mabel on the birth certificate papers. But we knew almost immediately after we handed them in that we actually wanted it to be Maude.

      My memories of going to make the official consist of standing in line at a government office on a cold day with a 2 month old baby and a 20 month toddler. Not fun. So in my head I associate name change with crying babies. But I realize that it’s probably not so bad if you don’t have two little ones in tow. Hahaha.

      1. The hospital misspelled my son’s first name on his birth certificate. Who had to go to SS office to fix it? – – Not the hospital! I remember standing in the crowded office for a long time with my son in the front carrier, weighing a TON (he was 9 lbs at birth) on my postpartum body, and hoping I wouldn’t have to manage a diaper change or have to breast feed there (he was my first and I wasn’t so efficient with either task.)

        Also, a few years ago, a close friend decided to change her last name. She chose a last name that belonged to a maternal grandmother. She wasn’t close with her dad and had always assumed she would take her husband’s name when she married, but decided to wait no longer. I went to Papyrus and had petite calling cards made up with her new name, phone number and e-mail address.

  6. Growing up I never knew my biological father, but because of naming traditions, my brother and I wound up with his last name. I thought it was silly most of my life to have this name from a person that I’d never known, and looked forward to the day when I got married and could actually change it. I really loved this article though and for some reason I thought to myself, “If I changed my name, I would want it to be Chang… am I Chinese? Absolutely not… so I have no idea where the thought came from… but I feel like paigechang.com has a nice flow if I ever decide to go for a blog redesign.

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

    1. That is so amazing that this name spoke to you. I can’t help but think, romantically, that you were a beautiful Chinese woman (or man?) in a past life and her name continues to call to you.

  7. I’ve never changed my last name, even when I got married, but I absolutely love this story and the reason behind Lyna’s name change.

  8. Amazing timing. I’m in the process of divorce and know I’m not keeping my married name but truly debating if my maiden name suites my new life. More food for thought.

  9. I kept my maiden name. Never considered taking my husband’s name. I completely understand the author’s reason for changing her name. When my parents divorced, I remember asking my mom to change my name to her last name. I wanted her to be recognized as the one who was raising us full-time. I never did but if I were to change from my maiden name/father’s last name, I would choose my mom’s last name.

    1. Your comment reminded me that I have mixed feelings about maiden names. When I think of my mother’s maiden name, I feel like it’s actually my Grandpa’s name. I think I’d have to go way, way, way back in my genealogy to find a name that I felt originally belonged to a woman, and wasn’t handed down by a man.

      1. Or surnames like Baxter ( ‘bake sister’ a female baker) or Emmett (diminutive of Emma) or Madison ‘Maud’s son’). Or just something about you or the women in your family, mine are all makers, quilters, doll makers, so something like Craft appeals.

  10. My husband and I had this whole discussion!! We picked out alternate first names for ourselves, plus a last name that we would share. It was a fun discussion, and now if we are at a real estate open house or getting coffee or something we can use our fake names for fun :)

  11. When I was young, my family and I changed our last name.
    My parents had the same last name when they got married, they where both called Jensen, so it was also the lastname my sister and I got.
    At one point my sister, my mother and I took my maternal granmothers lastname, Kolling, as our middelname.
    After a couple of years, my fathers also wanted Kolling, as a middelname. However, bacause of the rules in Denmark he couldn’t take it as a middelname, but as his lastname, meaning he had to loose Jensen. So I order for all of us to have the same lastname, we removed Jensen and made Kolling our lastname.
    When I got married I kept Kolling as a middelname, and took my husbands lastname.

    1. Interesting – isn’t there a kind of a history of changing the name “Jensen” in Denmark? My mother’s family were actually Jensens, but my understanding is that at some point the government encouraged people named Jensen to take a different surname because there were so many Jensens it caused confusion for the civil service. So my mother’s family became “Kirkegaard” because they lived next to the churchyard. (I’m not sure exactly when, but I believe this was within the last century.)

  12. Abigail Phoenix

    My husband and I both changed our surnames when we married, to a new created name. Neither of us wanted to change our names to the other’s, they didn’t hyphenate well, and there is something sweet and symbolic about us starting a new family together with a new name that bonded us. It also was easier down the line when we decided to have children. I know many married people who don’t change their names, but then it’s a second question when it’s time to decide the children’s surnames.

    For us, it was the first big decision we made in our marriage, and it was meant to set the tone for our subsequent life partnership.

    1. This idea is my favorite. Years ago, when we’d only been married a few years (but already had 3 kids), I had an name crisis. I was mad I had changed my last name, but had no desire to hyphenate and was glad I shared a last name with my kids. I wrote an essay where I said the only fair and simple way I could come up with to handle the name change question when getting married is to have both spouses pick an entirely new last name. Exactly what you did!

      But I’ve never met anyone who actually did that. I’m so glad you commented.

      I really like the idea of naming the new family you are creating by getting married, in the same way you name a baby.

      I love that there’s a fairness and equality to it. I love that there are no hyphens or questions about what last name the kids will have. Awesome!

      1. Abigail Phoenix

        Thanks! We love it. And it wasn’t much more difficult than the more traditional name change steps a newly married woman has to take. The extra step was that we both had to stand in front of a judge and vow that we weren’t changing our names to evade justice (ha!) or anything. That court document was what we used to submit name changes on our licenses and SS cards, and from there, everything happens as per normal. It’s been over 11 years now, and I haven’t regretted the decision once!

        One other factor: I’m Asian, and my husband is white. We didn’t think through this fully at the time, but choosing a name that wasn’t overtly white or Asian ended up being the right choice for our family too, especially now that it encompasses two children who, at this point, look very ethnically ambiguous.

        1. My husband and I just celebrated 3 happy years of marriage, but I am feeling a little mad about taking his name too. I’m a little relieved to see I’m not alone!

      2. I had a colleague who had all the guests at her wedding put a new last name option for the couple in a hat. During the reception one was chosen at random and it became the new last name for both husband and wife. So brave of them!

  13. I love this idea! I think we should all have a name that we love and that speaks to who we are, and if that isn’t the name we were born with, we should change it! I kept my maiden name when I got married and never regretted it, it’s who I am.

  14. I have been thinking about what to do with my last name. I don’t want to have kids with a different last name but I also don’t want to be the out-of-date Mrs. Whitacre ;) nor do I like my maiden name!

    I am keeping my mind and eyes open for a name that I like and would change it to. It’s actually quite fun to imagine such a change!

    1. It’s so tricky. I love sharing a last name with my kids, but of course, they may choose to change it when they get older. So who knows? My mother remarried after my father died, and she took her new husband’s name. He’s a great guy, but I feel no connection to my mom’s new surname.

      I look forward to finding out what you decide. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be the right decision.

  15. Great article and comments! I really appreciate Lyna Rose’s story and honesty. Personally, I have a very difficult time with last names. I am happily married with three children. I didn’t take my husband’s name when we got married. When our children were born, it seemed “normal” that they would have my husband’s name. So now here I am, the only one in my new nuclear family with my maiden name, and I can’t say I feel that bonded to that name either. I have a fine relationship with my dad, but I very much recognize that my maiden name is his name. The whole system feels very gendered and biased to me–that we (as women) are simply dependent on the men in our lives to assign us last names. So now, half the time I go by my maiden, half the time I go by my married, but neither feels particularly representative of me. It makes me a little sad.

  16. Beautifully written, and a beautiful name. In Germany, the naming laws are very strict. Besides marriage, you can only change your name if you have a very good cause, e.g. if you can prove your name is causing you suffering, you are widowed or divorced and want to change back to your maiden name, for transgender people, and a few other exceptions. Simply wanting a different name, or changing your mind is not enough. I know a couple of stories of people who ended up with a different name than their mother intended, because the father went to register and put down the wrong thing because he couldn’t remember (Beatriks instead of Beatrix, Anneliese instead of Anna Elisabeth) – so you probably would have been stuck with Mabel here!

  17. The Other Robin

    I considered changing my maiden name since I’d never met my father. That is when I realized that women (American women, anyway) don’t really have last names. Our last names are from our fathers or our husbands. When I married, I didn’t give a thought to changing my last name to my husband’s. After my divorce, I wanted to have the same name as my children. In my mid-forties, I married my childhood sweetheart. His last name is the first that I felt really fit just right. It has a great story behind it, and I really feel like it’s mine!

    1. “That is when I realized that women (American women, anyway) don’t really have last names.”

      I’ve never heard it phrased that way, but it resonates with me. The idea of keeping my father’s name or taking my husband’s name? Neither were really my name, so how much did it matter? And neither my father nor my husband got to pick those names either.

  18. I came to this post a bit skeptical, only because the thought of everyone choosing a new last name sounds like a legal nightmare. But I was touched by Lyna’s beautiful words and thoughtful approach. I understand now that a new name is ideal for many individuals and families.

    However, I generally like family names, as imperfect and sexist the system may be, for genealogical and scientific purposes. Names are an efficient way to map heritage, history and disease. I think invented surnames would make that more difficult.

    (On a related note, I was thinking today about the unique names I gave my children. I didn’t want them to be too common, but I wonder if unique names have played any role in the growing entitlement some kids experience. Like, did a mass of Matts and Jessicas help kids aspire to be team members instead of teen starlets? Just a thought.)

  19. So growing up I always wished my last name started with O’…. I had read a book about Irish twins (O’Sullivan) and just thought that was so cool. Imagine my surprise when I married the only Irish man without an O’ last name!!

    1. Summer Sivley

      I always wanted an O’ last name too!

      Until I worked at a bank. Then, looking up O’Brien was a nightmare. Is it under O Brien, Obrien, or something completely wrong. Why is everything so hard. :P

  20. My parents divorced when I was 3 and although I still had a relationship with my biological father it was my step father who raised me. When I was being registered for a new school around 4th grade I asked if I could use his name. My parents then had my name legally changed to stepfather-bio dad names. In everyday life I only use my stepfathers name. WHen my daughter was born we gave her a hyphenated name of mystepafather-husband name.

  21. I married later in life. My career was quite established and my husband had kids from a previous marriage and additional kids were not in our future. I had been sitting on the fence about changing my name mostly because of the career and the fact I hate how I write a cursive “D” which is the first letter of my husbands last name.

    You could say fate stepped in as two days before our wedding my dad was diagnosed with a rare, terminal cancer. In an instant the value I placed on my somewhat unique family name skyrocketed and I couldn’t imagine going through the balance of my life with any other name.

    VM

  22. I have to admit I was a little skeptical before reading this post, but her essay, which was so beautifully written, made me feel like, “OF COURSE she changed her name… how could she not?” And it really doesn’t feel like that big of a deal compared with all she gained.

    Also, when one of my best friends got married her and her husband changed his last name to the original last name of his family (I don’t know the whole story, but I believe they changed it to the original un-Americanized version of his ancestors.) I mean I can see why they did as the orignal name is French and has a very lovely sound to it, where as the American version is a little harsher sounding, but I belive it was quite the family controversy at the time! (Which was also understandable.) At the time I thought it was pretty gutsy of them but now, more than 10 years later no one gives it a second thought…even if you have to catch yourself addressing his parents by a similar but different last name. :)

  23. I didn’t change my name when I married my husband 20 years ago and he didn’t mind at all, but we did agree to use his last name for any of our future children. So my name doesn’t match theirs and it has never been a problem. My family immigrated to Canada from Hungary when I was 9, and my last name is the only thing about me that identifies me as part of my ethnic heritage. I really like the random conversations that come out of going through my life with my last name. And if the kids’ friends call me Mrs. Hill, I don’t correct them.

  24. What a perfect story. Initially, I thought, “What?! That’s crazy, makes no sense”, but after reading Lyna’s reasons for changing her name and the process she went through, it’s so beautiful and reasonable and perfect. I love that she did some genealogical research and discovered Rose. That is so beautiful. I’m very happy with my current name. but, if I feel the need to change it in the future, I would do the same thing, look into the genealogical charts and choose. My great grandmother’s maiden name was Leveque. I quite like that. Thanks for this!

  25. I love my name and never intend to change any part of it (including my last name if/when I marry), but it is cool to think about. I do have some interesting last names in my family tree that I love as well: Okeden, Eagle, even my mom’s maiden name of Elderkin. Both my mom’s and dad’s last names have the chance of dying out with my generation- my mom’s two brothers never had kids and all of the other grandkids have their fathers’ names. My dad’s last name depends on whether my brother has kids or not. But mostly, my last name carries a long and beautiful history with it. I also feel that it’s just part of my identity.

    However, my dad changed his first name before he had kids. He had never actually gone by his first name, as it was his dad’s name as well. When he joined the family real estate business, it was getting very confusing for customers to keep them straight as they also had the same middle initial, so he shortened Donald Todd to D. Todd. He does have issues filling out many forms- everyone tells him he can’t use an initial, but it’s his legal first name!

  26. Long time reader here…first time commenting. My husband and I are Senior missionaries serving in Cambodia. When we arrived a month ago we were assigned to serve with the Vietnamese Branches here in Phnom Penh. At our first meeting those members asked us what our new Vietnamese names were. We had no idea that at adulthood it is a Viet custom to choose your name. We were too jet lagged and overwhelmed to make the split decision that they wanted, so we asked them to chose for us. After just a few minutes with us, they came up with our new names. My husband is now (I’ll just give you the somewhat English name because my laptop doesn’t have Viet characters) Elder Powerful. The Viet word actually means powerful, strength and calmness. My name is Sister Sunshine. They said it was because I had a warm welcoming smile, seemed happy, and that I radiated a nice “light”. We both love our new names and were moved with their perceptions of us. We proudly wear those name tags. We love them so much more than our regular names in Khmer (Cambodian). So I’ve thought much lately of names and new names. And how easy it would be to change if desired. And how other cultures have beautiful traditions. I’m grateful to be experiencing many new things. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I’m happy to still be reading even though I’m half a world away.

  27. I couldn’t imagine not having my husband’s last name. I’m a fair-skinned freckly redhead, and my maiden name is Atkins. Now I’m a Moreno. At least once/year (here in close-to-the-border So Cal) I receive a perplexed look when someone of Hispanic descent hears my last name and sees my face, but so goes it. My husband is estranged from his father though (his father was a bad man), so sometimes that part bothers me (since that’s the name we have), but I remind myself we are a NEW generation of Morenos!!
    (Plus I am so thankful we don’t have his mom’s last name – Jauregui (pronounced “HOW”-reh-gee”, WOW!)

  28. My instinct is against this, since it seems to me that our name expresses, not the part of our identity that’s our own choice, but the part of our identity that’s given to us by our circumstances – our birth, our parents, our language, our country, etc. Remaking ourselves to be our own creations in every possible way is foreign to me.

    On the other hand, there are some reasons I can imagine doing it. Presumably, there were other people with the last name “Hitler” in Germany a hundred years ago and I bet most of them changed there names after WWII. I also admire what Christian and Sikh Indians have told me about how the early converts to both religions in India changed their last names as a way of protesting the caste system – although they also noted that they all still know what their family’s original last name was, even though that was hundreds of years ago.

  29. My mom changed her name while still married to her second husband (whom she later divorced) – because she felt called to claim a name that felt like “hers” for the first time in her life. So, she has had four surnames! (Maiden, first husband, second husband, and finally her lasting and very beautiful name.) She chose her maternal great-great grandmother’s name, because she identifies intensely with the Italian maternal side of her family.

    I kept my own maiden name when I married, and my daughter has my name, not my husband’s. In a twist, my last name is my mother-in-law’s maiden name! So there are Taylors on both sides of my daughter’s family tree. The court clerk asked us some very specific questions about first cousins when we got our marriage license! ;) Even crazier? My husband’s first name is also my dad’s first name – which is why he couldn’t take my name – my husband would have had the very same name as my father!

  30. I have thought about changing my first name. I was suppose to be named Sunshine, but my grandmother interviened and pressured my mom to find a more suitable name. She said that Sunshine was a name for a chicken. It was not until before our eldest was born that I heard this story. At the time we were keeping our kids names private until they were born in an effort to avoid others opinions. We chose names we loved, but they were not traditional and we knew people would comment. We named them Avalon and Largo if anyone is curious. Ever since my mom told me that story I have felt drawn to the name. One of these days I might actually change it. And as life would have it, my kids got a hamster and guess what they named it? And, can you believe it, we actually had a family member try to get us to change one of the names for 3+ months after he was born. Love this post!

  31. What a great story! I have a co-worker who made a similar change and she researched and chose a surname VERY far back in her family’s history because she liked the sound of it and she wanted to honor her ancestors who fought their way to America.

    I, on the other hand, changed my first name. My high school friends each put a name in a bowl, and the one I drew was the one I went off to college using. I was 17, struggling mightily with my identity, and I just didn’t “feel like” my name. I went back to my original first name after college graduation but I am really glad I went for the name change. It was very freeing and empowering to name myself.

  32. My brother and his wife chose a new last name a year or two after they were married. My emotional response to that was interesting. I liked and respected the idea but since they as a couple had also chosen to estrange themselves from the family after thier marriage and I only learned of it via social media it hurt a lot. I remember thinking as I cried over losing one more connection to my brother how I would have cheered them if I’d been invited/welcome to take part.

  33. Posting a second comment because I have a second topic. My daughter is eight now. When she came into our home via foster care at 2 days old we thought though her name wasn’t one we’d have thought to pick, we’d be happy to stick with it if adoption became an option.
    Two and a half years later her adoption was finalizing and I was naming a new biological baby. I realized how much I missed having been able to name her. At the time she was just back in our home after an attempted placement with a bio family member and with a new baby brother on top of that she needed the stability of her name so we stuck with it.
    All that commotion in her early life left it’s mark and at this point I feel like we’re really close to healing those attachments we’ve been working on these past six years. Just a few days ago I was thinking to myself how much I’d love it if she chose to change her name. Of course in my imagination’s version of the event she’d choose the name I picked out for her when she was 2.

  34. I love this so much. 1st I love Lyna too. Lyna if you are reading this Lyna Rose is so right for you. I still remember you from our NY days and this update is so wonderful. 2nd I love the idea of changing names when it feels right. Names have morphed and changed all throughout history – they have the potential to be more fluid than we give them credit for. 3rd And what better way to step out of patriarchy and create something new. 4th Reading how Cheryl Strayed picked her new name in Wild gave me chills. 5th My name has felt awkward since getting married. I kept all my names -(1st, middle, last) and then added on my married name so now I’m up to 4 names which seems like a mouthful: Sarah Starr Alleman Smith. Sometimes I like Sarah Smith because it feels pretty anonymous – I call it my spy name. I think I’d be pretty happy to just lop off the whole thing and be Sarah Star. I also joke with my husband about changing our last name to Sunshine. There are SO many Smiths in this world – don’t we need more sunshines?

  35. I kept my maiden name when I married my husband 16 years ago, but all three of our children were given his last name. I adored my maiden name as it is so closely tied to an extended family who loves each other fiercely. Although I always introduced myself using that name, people always reverted to calling me by my husband’s. I was never offended — it’s a cultural expectation in Utah that will likely never change — but I did find it interesting how society consistently identified me by who I married rather than who I am.
    A year ago we undertook a huge change/adventure and sold our house and moved our family to Munich. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I opted to legally change my name to make the transition easier for my kids. I took my beloved maiden name as my middle name and my husband’s as my last name. It was my way of showing my family we were unified and would have each other’s backs during this new challenge. I still love my maiden name, but I don’t regret making the change because I’ve reached a point in my life where I no longer hear the name and think about my husband’s family, I think about MY family.

  36. Great conversation- I do want to say that the fee (at least in CA) is $400, and not possible for everyone. I know for middle class and above that might not be an extreme amount, but it does make it a choice of priveledge, that some can’t afford to consider.

  37. Heidi Jungwirth

    My only connection to people changing their surnames is when, as a child, I used to love reading the name change section of the government gazette. My dad and I used to do this. ( pretty geeky, I know). Our favourite was a man who had a super long, unpronounceable last name, who changed his name to ‘Smith’. We both thought that his life would be a lot simpler after that!

    Personally, I have a strong connection to my family name. My brother has traced our family tree back to the year and I love that I have a connection to people who lived a millennia before me.

  38. Maybe I missed the comment, but I wanted to add another place of opinion of the family culture a shared last name can bring for a family! (Plus it is much easier referring to a particular family unit [although I guess you could say Jenn and Dan instead of “The Smiths”])

    Anyway! Family history has a huge impact. Which is some of the reason why some people change their name; to be no longer affiliated. (We’ve had that in the family :) ) But a family name can be something to be proud of, as well. I did end up taking my husband’s last name because I loved the name and what it stood for. Had I not liked it, I would have kept my maiden name.

    When it comes down to it, the route to deciding whatever the family name may be (whether handed down from the husband, picking a new name entirely, using the wife’s last name, whatever) I think there’s something special in sharing a family name. :)

  39. Lyna Rose is such a poetic name! And I love reading all those different perspectives about changing one’s name. This subject has been on my mind quite a lot lately, because my boyfriend intends to officially announce our engagement soon and I’m debating whether to keep my maiden name or take his name after we get married.

    To be honest, neither of those options sounds very appealing to me at the present moment. I hate my maiden name because it’s not even my “real name” – long story short, my father was adopted, so he took the name of his adoptive mother, and that’s how I inherited a name that is not even remotely linked to my ancestors. While I have nothing against my adoptive grandmother and I’m grateful that she took care of my dad and sacrificed so many things for him, I feel like this name isn’t truly mine, it feels more like a “borrowed” name. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of taking my fiancé’s name, because I’m having a lot of issues with his family at the moment, so sharing their name would not feel right for me. Plus I hate the fact that society always expects married women to take their husbands’ names, but never the other way around.

    Another option would be to “reclaim” my father’s birth name (the name he had before he was adopted), which, coincidentally, is also my mother’s maiden name. Unfortunately, it’s a name that is extremely common, and there are hundreds of women in the world with the same first name as mine + that family name.

    Creating a completely new name would be awesome, but I think the law in my country doesn’t allow it. I live in France, and as far as I know, French citizens can only change their names under very specific circumstances – for instance, if your family name also happens to be an insulting word, you may change it. But otherwise, you can’t change your name just because you want to. Out of curiosity, do you know whether your friend Lyna Rose changed her name in France or in the US? Because if she managed to change her name in France despite the law, then I would love to hear how she did it, so I can go and do the same!

  40. Love love love this. I came across your blog while googling name changes. I’m 26 and have always had a rocky relationship with my father, with my mom remarried, my grandparents long gone (I only met them a few times), and a wicked stepmother. This article really speaks to me, and I hope I grow just as much from the change after I decide on the perfect last name.

  41. Yes, exactly what I’m doing now. In the process of divorce and do not want to keep his name, nor my father’s name. Both men are very hurtful. I’m changing my last name to something Earthy and beautiful. I have a few in mind and am waiting for signs from the Universe to choose the right one.

  42. In the dutchland :) only a judge can confirm and change a last name and it costs a lot of money. If the judge says no, your money is lost. No freedom to change your last name. Even when you have a trauma with your last name like abuse by father they don’t listen. It’s such a pity, the government.

  43. Thank you for sharing Lyna’s story…several of her statements resonate with me & the reasons I am currently deciding on a new last name…I can’t wait to have that perfect match come across my mind! To lighten the load of my past from a limiting name will be freedom in itself!

  44. What’s More, I am Changing Your Name
    …(Gen 17:5)

    God has given me a new name! Actually its not brand new, I received it well over a year ago while listening to a Bible teaching by on Gen 17:5. He talked about how when God Changed Abram’s name to Abra-h-am and Sarai to Sar-ah, he added the Hebrew letter “Heh” (pronounced – Hey). Now in Hebrew, the letters are not mere letters or sounds – they represent concepts. They have meaning. So the letter “Heh” is the Breath!
    It can mean: revealed, an open window, a hand raised; breeze, wind or Spirit. The “Heh” or “H” brings out the essence of the person, the Holy Spirit. When God changed Abram and Sarai’s names by adding the “heh’ or “H”, he breathed the Spirit of God into their lives.

    So that night I prayed – “Lord, will you breathe into my name? Just then God spoke to my heart simply saying, “add an H”. So I was given the name “Dianeh”. It has the breath at the end!!

    I then said, “Oh Lord, now I need a last name!” At the time I was married, so I thought this given name was to be my “nom de plume”, my pen name. But now that I WAS “forsaken, a wife refused” (Isaiah 62:4 & 54:6). I needed God’s name for me – and the name he spoke to me is “Joy”. God wants to breathe JOY into my life! It is my commission. To go forth with Joy. Putting “Jesus, Others and Yourself” in that order.

    Her name will no longer be …. From now on her name will be… Dianeh Joy!

    …”I have summoned you by name; you are mine, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…
    they will not sweep over you… because I love you.” (Isaiah 1,2 & 4)

    1. What a beautiful, inspiring story! So very blessed to have read this! I am surely thinking and will be praying now more so in this difficult season of my life! Thank you!

  45. I’m very happy to find this article because I keep thinking about changing my last name. Both of my parents have passed, I wasn’t particularly close with my father, and my marriage did not end well. I’ve kept my married name for my son’s sake, but when he goes to college in 3 years, I think it’s time to pick a new name for my identity. I’ve always had one for someone else that I was ambivalent about.

  46. Thank You for your beautiful post. My first name is Rose and I thank you for your story. You have spoken to me and now I’m uncertain if I want to change my last name lol – beautiful contradictions

  47. I love this! I got married when I was 24 and kept my married name after I got divorced because its easier to have the same name as my children but once they are old enough I intend to change my name. It would have been 20 years since I used my maiden name and I’m just not the person I was then anymore and it wouldn’t be right to go back so I’ve been trying to decide on a new surname that will reflect the next stage of my life.

  48. I recently got divorced as daunting as that was at the age of 39 I feel like My identity is lost. I don’t feel I can go back to my maiden name as it is like inverting to the past. The thought of keeping his last name doesn’t settle well either, it’s like I’m holding onto who I was when I was married to him. I used to be so proud of both names and what they each meant. Now the feeling of not belonging to either is sad but true..
    I’ve thought about just creating a last name and going with that but I feel like a last name should mean something to you and shouldn’t just be random that I should be apart of you and whom you want to be.
    So for me I’m just “unknown” right now.

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