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What's in a name?

post by Janelle Rooks

Today (March 8th) marks the 6th month anniversary of my wedding day. It was a truly magical day spent celebrating with family and friends with a massive rain storm that held off until everyone was safely under the tent for the reception. I should mention that there was so much rain that at one point there was a possibility that the tent might collapse on us – but that’s a story for another day.

Now that the bills have been paid dust has settled and we’ve finally received our wedding album (it’s AMAZING!), here comes the tricky stuff – deciding to keep my name or change it.

Who knew this experience would be fraught with psychological conflicts? I always thought I would keep my last name – so did nearly everyone in my family, but once Mike (my husband) proposed, the choice didn’t seem so obvious.

Seriously, this was a tougher choice than I thought it was going to be. Do I carry on the family name because my dad was an only child? Will my professional accomplishments be lost forever if I change my name? Am I setting the feminist movement back by a million years? How will my friends from the first grade who I haven’t spoken to since we graduated from elementary school ever find me on facebook? First world problems, I know.

Then there was this discussion with Mike:
Me: Can’t we just combine our names into a super name like Barks?
Him: Do you really want to be Janelle Barks?
Me: It has a nice ring, no – okay fine what about Books?
Him: Um, no.
Clearly, comprise is not in his wheelhouse.

All joking aside, it was difficult to wrap my head around the idea of changing my name. I’ve spent the last 30+ years of my life answering to Janelle Rooks. I shared a common nickname, Rooksie, that was given to me by some of closest friends who didn’t know that it was also the same nickname given to my dad by his closest friends. At apple seeds, I’m often called JR. If I change my name, do I now become Barthie (I sure hope not!) and JB (okay, not so bad)?

I know there are other options like hyphenating but I just don’t have the patience to constantly write two last names (again, first world problems). Also, what if one of our future children married someone with a hyphenated last name would they then become Rooks-Barth-lastname-lastname? There is also the option of keeping it as my middle name, but I like my middle name and the story behind it (again, a story for another day).

After having a more serious conversation with my husband, I decided that I wanted to change my name. To me, it was a way to establish us as a new family unit. Sharing the same last name unites us in a traditional way, even though we are two not-so-traditional people. My husband also really wanted me to consider it and the reasons we came up with together out-weighted the reasons that I wanted to keep my name. In the end, I personally feel that my name identifies me, but the things I do every day, my friends and my family are what make me who I am. I’m not changing my persona only my moniker. And with that, I “officially” present to the world Janelle Barth.

Now comes the mountains of forms to fill out, corrections to make, and new signature to learn how to write. Is there still time for me to reconsider? Just kidding.

Did you change your name? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. I didn't even think twice about taking my husband's name once we got married. After my parents passed away & being an only child I wanted to keep a part of them with me. So, I got rid of my middle name (which I never really liked anyway) and made the name I've had for 30+ years and made it into my middle name. So when I sign my name I just write the initial out so it's always a part of me and my signature :)
    Trust me, everyone told me it was a pain to fill out so many forms but it really was pretty simple :)

  2. I've been married for 2+ years and still haven't legally changed my name... yet. I didn't think I would change it, but it's so important to Jesse that I will at some point (and have finally come around on doing it). I used to travel for work a lot and needed a valid passport at short notice, which meant I didn't change it then. Now, we're expecting a baby in a few weeks and I already filled out the leave/legal paperwork in my "old" name. I guess maybe I will have it all done by our third anniversary!

  3. I had an easy time deciding to change my name because my husband's name is infinitely cooler and easier to spell than my maiden name :-)

    However, changing at work did worry me. I imagined it was going to be this horrible problem once I changed my name, that no one would be know who I was, could find me in the directory, know who just left voicemail, and so on. It wasn't true because of my unusual first name. I can't say it was everyone's experience, I am sure people named Jenny or Sara have a harder time. As it turned out I was the only Paula in the entire 1000+ person company. And most people could figure out when they saw the first name who I was. It was only about a year worth of name confusion anyway - a new name becomes habit quickly. After a few years it actually started to feel weird when called by my maiden name.

    I made my former last name a middle name along with my original middle name (you can have as many middle names as you want by the way, don't let the social secuity adminstration tell you differently), but on forms with room for just one middle name I use my maiden name as my middle name. My original middle name (which is a family name and a nickname my family calls me by still) lives on with my daughter.