Family Names

Do you know why your parents named you as they did? Are you the namesake of one of your ancestors? Or, maybe a dear friend of the family? Is your name unique or unusual in some way? I didn’t find out about my name until just a few years before my father died (2004).

As I have researched my ancestry over the past 30+ years, I have seen how children in my family were often named for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes for a deceased sibling. My father, for instance, was named after both his father and his paternal grandfather, the latter being a point of bitter disdain throughout his adult life, but that’s another story altogether.  My mother was named for a maternal aunt and her maternal grandmother.

Where did my name, Marilyn, come from? I have not found it among the names of my ancestors, nor among those of their children. So, one day I finally asked my father for the story behind my name. He said that he named me after Marilyn Monroe.

I was born in November, 1952. At the time, my father was a mechanic in Hollywood. He often encountered celebrities at the local diner where he would take his lunch break or grab a cup of coffee. He told many tales of interacting with celebrities, either at the auto shop, or in the diner.  Marilyn Monroe was a big name in Hollywood in 1952, even gaining superstar status, thanks to the photo essay by Philippe Halsman for Life magazine that April. (You can read more about this at, So, I am sure her name came up in their conversations often.

Naming me after Marilyn Monroe does make sense to me, in light of the times and my dad’s experiences. It also makes sense, knowing that he named his first daughter (I am #3 and the baby), after Bonita Granville, another Hollywood actress of the 1930s and 1940s. Not sure what happened with naming my middle sister Carol, though. I was always told she was named after one of my father’s friends (first name Carl) hoping for a son. Maybe she was named after Clark Gable’s wife, Carol Lombard, though. Possible. Dad did have a connection with Clark Gable, but that’s another tale.



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