Thursday, September 2, 2010

Her Name

Claire Annalise

A reader emailed me yesterday to ask how we came up with Claire's name. As you all know, I had some difficulty with girl names. After reading through various top 200 and other name lists, JP and I just didn't like many (or as it seemed at the time, any) female names. After occasionally seizing on one only to immediately reject it because I didn't like the nicknames that went with it, or I thought it was too common, or one of us had a bad association with it, JP quit and decided we could name our baby after she was born. I thought that was a terrible idea- it wasn't like we had a list of possibilities, we had nothing, and I didn't see how her squished little pink face was going to inspire a name out of thin air. Finally I picked the only potential name on our list and said she was going to be Claire unless he could come up with something better.

At first we kept saying we were thinking of other options, but the more we used it, the more we liked it- and the more the baby in my belly seemed to be Claire. I had first fallen in "like" with the name when I was pregnant with Landon. It fit all my requirements- not overly common but not unusual, easily pronounced, easily spelled, and no shortened nickname possibilities. It sounded pretty, but strong, and I could see a little girl and a successful woman sharing the name. I think it must have been the Diana Gabaldon Outlander books that first gave me the idea. The Claire in those books is a very smart, strong character and that was part of the mental picture I had of my future daughter. So Claire it was. Like Landon, the biggest reason we chose it was because we liked it, and it didn't go too much deeper than that.

Also like Landon, her middle name has more meaning. My middle name was Ann. I never liked it, so I switched it out with my maiden name once I married JP, but I've grown a little more fond of it in the five years since then. Ann is my mom's middle name as well as her aunt's and her great-grandmother's, and it happens to be my dad's sister and mother's middle names too. But the real reason for including "Anna" in Claire's middle name comes from my Swedish grandpa. He has always loved the name Anna Brita. Each time one of his four children announced they were having a baby, my grandpa would so hopefully suggest Anna Brita, "the most beautiful name in the world." It became something of a joke, but after he struck out with each of his 10 grandchildren, he still persevered with the suggestion for his great-grandchildren. It wasn't until recently, when he and my grandmother took a trip to Nova Scotia, that I learned the story behind his persistent suggestion: Anna Brita was the name of his grandmother. In 1888, when she was 23 and approximately 7 months pregnant, she boarded a ship with her husband and 20-month old son (my grandpa's dad), to sail from Sweden to America. There were many stops along the way and at some point she became very ill and went into labor.

From the Acadian Reporter, May 4, 1888, "from there was taken . . . to the Samaritan House the sick wife of Karl P. Norden, an emigrant. When off the coast of Newfoundland the wife was confined, and her position among several hundred of emigrants was not at all conducive to comfort. After being taken to the Samaritan House she grew rapidly worse; last evening Rev N. LeMoine baptized the little stranger, and shortly after the mother, aged 23, died. The husband aged about 30, and a little boy, and the baby, which is not expected to live are left." The baby girl died two days after her mother, and they are buried in separate numbered, but not named, pauper's graves outside Halifax (A-23 and A-90). My great-great-grandfather and his 20-month old son continued on to America alone. The story made me cry when I first read it in the email my grandpa sent out after his visit to her grave, and it's making me cry now, but the happy ending is that the two of them did make it to America. And many years later, 20-month-old baby Carl was a grown man with a farm in Siren, Wisconsin, a wife, and 8 children, the youngest of whom is my grandpa.

So, Anna was to be part of her name. The second part comes from my grandmother's mom, Alesa Isabella Christina Anderson, who spent her whole life thinking her name was Alice, only to find out many years later, I believe when she was filing for social security and finally saw her birth certificate, that her name was actually the Swedish Alesa. Back then most of the immigrants wanted to embrace their new American identities, so baby Alesa had become Alice and she never knew it. Thus, Claire's middle name of Annalise.

I think "Claire" suits her, and I love it more and more as she grows into it. I think she likes it too.


  1. Wow what a story for her name!! I did a VERY similar post but mine sucked compared to that. it went something like:
    Liliana Rose: Well, we saw the name Liliana on the internet and liked it and Rose is named after my mother...but geez, my mother didn't sale half way across the world to get that! haha.

    P.S. LOVE that dress on her.

  2. I hate my middle name too! I have the same one you use to have, so when naming the older of the twins I had planned to name one after my firend but to avoid confusion through in the hyphen and made it Julie-Ann, Kendryk was going to be Kendryk not matter boy or girl!

  3. She always looks like such a character in her photos! I love the name - it was one of our final two or three. I think I love it especially because of the Time Traveler's wife. The name we ended up going with, strangely enough, was inspired by a kid we saw in Yo Gabba Gabba... they have kids dancing who say "Hi my name is... and I like to dance!" D denies that is the origin, but I'm pretty sure that's where it first "occurred" to me. And her middle name is Ann!

  4. Great post and history lesson about your family! I earned my own given name in a very lax manner. In our culture, we take our father's first name as a middle name. My older brother was given an 'easily pronounced by all people' name and when my mother was pregnant with me, she believed I was to be a boy and nothing else! With this thought, she chose a name for me that rhymed with my brother's. After I was born, she simply gave me the feminine form of that name which upon moving to the U.S. in the late 1970s was bastardized into a horrible English word. Interestingly, it's an extremely common name/word in India used by banks, libraries, schools in India...However, after enduring years and years of cringeworthy torment and fear each year of school with my teachers' first day of school mispronunciations, I happily changed my name when I got married as well. Kept the first name because that's what my Dad calls me, but got rid of Dad's name as my middle name and chose a nickname that my mom used for me. Go figure...she also didn't like the name I was given and called me another name! lol Hmmm....I think I'm bitter from all the childhood name calling!

  5. Love the the pictures! What a special keepsake for Claire to have! Claire is just precious! Thanks for sharing your family with us!

    Patty from TX

  6. Sweet, sweet name story. :) And I can see how Claire looks like Landon now, just a bit! What a doll. (And so, so glad you got an "easy" baby this time around!!!)

  7. Oh I just love the biscuit so much! Her smiling face makes me smile every time. Babies are the best!

  8. Not sure if I told you before, but I love the name Claire. It's so pretty. And what an amazing story about her middle name. Just think, too bad your family hadn't decided to stay in NS instead of continuing on to the US - we might be neighbours!

  9. A: Claire is precious and B: your blog/family gives me hope that one day I will be as together as you seem! Adding you to my "must read" column!

  10. This totally made me cry. What a beautiful post.