Same name, different person. What about different name, same person?
In genealogical research, we know to be aware of the perils of “same name, different person,” or proving one-and-the-same — meaning the John Smith who was born to James Smith and Mary Jones is the same John Smith who married Sally Brown. Or how to determine if all the references to James Smith, for example, in the same town, refer to the same man or multiple men with the same name.
But what about more than one name for the same person?
My mother was born on a farm in East Boyer Township, near Vail, in Crawford County, Iowa, on Nov. 14, 1921. While Iowa mandated the recording of births in 1880, this one was not recorded. My maternal grandmother, [Mary] Kathryn (Costello) Kearney, said the attending doctor failed to record the birth at the courthouse. She was named Vera Marie Kearney. Her father, Dan Kearney, gave his daughters names that could not be shortened. In addition to Vera, the second oldest, there was Inez, Carman, Rhea and Joyce. [One of these was actually shortened: Inez was most often called Iny.]
While my mother was named Vera Marie Kearney — the only legal document carrying this name is the certificate noting her death on June 28, 1984 in Omaha, Nebraska, with information supplied by me.
Her baptismal record from St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Vail, Iowa, on Dec. 4, 1921, records her name as Vera Mary Kearney. Close, but still not correct.
She is enumerated on the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Federal Censuses for East Boyer Township as Vera Kearney. And as Vera M. Kearney in the 1925 Iowa State Census. Her 1939 high school senior class picture reads Vera Kearney.
But when she married my father, Lowell Wayne Beerman(n), on March 8, 1943, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in nearby Denison, Iowa, her name is recorded as Veronica Mary Kearney. What?
This is where the proverbial wheels of the bus start to come off. How does Vera Marie Kearney become Veronica Mary Kearney?
My father was 18, just eight months out of high school when my parents married; my mother was 21. They did not go to school together and hadn’t known each other long. In applying for the marriage license, my father apparently thought that Vera was short for Veronica and somehow Marie was interchanged with Mary. Yet both my parents signed the marriage license application. Vera Marie Kearney signed her name as Veronica Mary Kearney.
But even harder to understand is how the use of Veronica continued. My parents had six children born between 1943 and 1961. In addition to my own birth certifcate, I have access to three of the five others. All four of these certificates list Veronica Kearney as our mother’s name. And in all four of these instances, she was the informant for the birth certficates. Was she trying to “match” the marriage record?
My mother never called herself Veronica. No one called her Veronica. Yet now, for all time, she is not only Vera Marie, but Veronica Mary.