Friday, 10 January 2014

What's In A Name?

Always I have been fascinated by names of people and their ethnic backgrounds, Living in Canada one is surrounded by people who are - practically - from everywhere. My ancestors - and the ancestors of  most of my friends - are Caucasian. However - I am happy to say - there are more and more friends and acquaintances from every background imaginable.

My first name is Ernest which was the name of my maternal grandfather while my middle name - Charles - was the given name of my paternal grandfather. Alda's first name - Laura - is the same as her maternal great grandmother while her middle name (Alda) is that of her paternal grandmother. Always she has been known as Alda and - as that name is unusual - she has met very few women who have the same name.

The third of we siblings is Babs. Her given names are Gladys Jean - the first name is the same as our mother's and - like Mom - she was born during the Christmas season. I have no idea what induced Dad to name her 'Jean' as well as there are/were no other 'Jeans' in our family. 

The fourth to come along was our late brother Daniel George who was named after Dad (Daniel) and after Dad's half-brother (George). Always Dad was known as 'Dan' while our kid brother was 'Danny' which enabled us to be clear as to whom we were speaking to and/or about.

Our family name has always intrigued me - what is/was the derivation?

During my teen years  I took piano lessons from a Miss Lacasse who - as far as we could tell - was not a close relative to our branch of the family. However, she had conducted some research and told me that three brothers had immigrated to Canada from France during the early days of settlement. Two of the brothers died while the third one sired a family. All of us in Canada with the 'Lacasse' (or de la Casse) surname are descendants from that one man.

Who he was and where he lived (Quebec or New Brunswick?) are unknown.

The family which Alda married into is sur-named Poirier. As the French word for 'pear' (the fruit) is 'poire' I assumed that the name referred to the fruit. After moving to Toronto I met a man whose surname was also 'Poirier'. He had undertaken some research and discovered the answer.

Many many centuries ago a young man had traveled from Great Britain to Normandy where he met and fell in love with a young woman whose father owned land upon which was an orchard including some pear trees. In those days a young man with no dowry would not be allowed to marry into a family who had 'landed' status. The owner of the orchard liked the young man so he thought up a way for him to be an eligible suitor for the daughter - he ceded to him a part of the orchard which contained some of the pear trees. Thus the name 'Poirier'!

I have no idea as to whether this explanation is valid or not but it is certainly romantic!

Neither I - nor my late brother - have direct descendants while both of my sisters do. One of them has a daughter - Teri - who married Paul Denis and gave birth to Nicholas and then Leah and it is the last name to which I wish to refer.

My maternal grandmother's mother was Jewish and - I believe - one of her names was Leah. One member of the family - who belongs to one of the Christian sects - did object to the Jewishness of the name but was overruled. Leah is mentioned in the Old Testament and it is a beautiful story so - as far as most of us are concerned - and as this grandniece is beautiful too - we are proud of her and firmly believe that she was well-named. 

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