Aug 31, 2008Identity Crisis

More proof if I needed it that my family is awkward.

My mother’s Christian name is a little different, being a combination of two fairly common names into something a little more unusual. When Ginger was staying I told her the story of my mother’s name, producing my birth certificate with a flourish as proof. I had to eat my words when I saw my mother’s name wasn’t spelled the way I thought it should be. I made an excuse about the story behind her name obviously being a family myth.

Two months later and I’m filling in my US visa paperwork and I once more pull out my birth certificate to double check I’m getting my mother’s name right. At the same time I’m wondering how Ginger got it wrong on the form she completed as an example for me. So I checked the photograph I have of my mother’s grave, and found her name spelled differently, in fact spelled the way I always thought it should be…

I then checked her will and bank book which I still have. They all agreed on the spelling. But that isn’t how her name was spelled on my birth certificate, so which spelling is correct? It was time to call in help.

I ‘phoned my sister. She confirmed that the spelling on my birth certificate is the same as that on my mother’s passport and marriage certificate. Okay. So somehow it was wrong in her will, and that was how it got wrong on the gravestone; or was it? I asked Sis to check mother’s birth certificate, and the spelling there is the same as that on her will and gravestone.

So I had discovered that my mother’s name is spelled incorrectly on my birth certificate, and likewise on our parents’ marriage certificate.

At this point hysterics set in as I and my sister called each other illegitimate, a practice to be repeated later in the day when I caught up with my brother.

We will never know what happened. My mother registered my birth so we can’t blame our father for getting it wrong. Maybe she wanted it to match the name on their marriage certificate, or maybe, back in the days of manual typewriters she couldn’t be bothered to get the Registrar to re-type my birth certificate, or maybe she just didn’t notice. Further checks showed that her name is correct on my brother’s birth certificate. In the course of my investigations I found out my brother misspelled our father’s Christian name on his marriage certificate – D’oh!

So what did I put on the visa paperwork?

The name that appears on my birth certificate, as that is the only document I have that ties my mother’s name to me.

It is no wonder people have trouble investigating their family trees.

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