The Evolution of a Name

By Premium

Lots of families and cultures have naming patterns, and often, a surname will show up as a middle name. But what about a first name? In this video, online editor Vanessa Wieland shares the evolution of her name, along with an old photo of her namesake.

 What's in a Surname?
See the tall lady on the right? That is my great-great aunt, Anna Vanness. And if you’re thinking her middle name looks a lot like mine, it’s because my grandmother named me after her. Anna Vanness was my grandmother’s favorite aunt. My mother always thought my aunt was being fancy with the spelling. However, my grandmother didn’t realize that she was carrying on a tradition. When my sister started researching our family tree, she discovered a fun fact: Vanness wasn’t just a fancy variant of Vanessa; it derived from Van Ness, her grandmother’s maiden name. 
 I’ve always had an affinity with Anna Vanness, though I don’t remember her well, but she was said to be quite the character! 
As a sidenote: As a genealogist, I love seeing my grandmother’s writing – though I despair at her vague labeling. Here’s a tip when you’re working with photos, whether they’re new or old – make the label clear to a complete stranger, by labeling first and last names of all the people involved. After all, they have to know whose old photo this belonged to in order to know who mom and grandma are. 
If you can, take some time to go back to your old photos and label them so future generations will know who is who. I’m fortunate, in that we know that these ladies are Grace Siple Ashford (on the left, my great-grandmother), Anna Vanness Siple (on the right), and Elizabeth Powers Siple (their mother, in the middle).