|Otto (Aro) with sister, Norma, and two cousins|
My father-in-law's real name was Aro, but when he entered school, his teacher (a German-American) suggested to his parents that he'd have more opportunity in their adoptive country if their son had a more American-sounding name--like Otto.
Greg's grandparents, eager to fit in, and not realizing that Otto was more German than American, readily agreed. Aro became Otto.
It's only within the past 40 years or so that we've become enamored with re-embracing our original heritage--even if we are many generations removed from that heritage. But back in the early part of the 20th century immigrants gladly distanced themselves from their mother country so they could be seen as Americans.
It's curious to see the pendulum swing in the opposite direction today.
I never got the chance to ask my father-in-law how he felt about his name change. I also wondered if it involved any legal maneuvering--but I doubt it. It was a different time and they didn't bother with trifles. If your parents renamed you, that was legal enough for everyone.
I had a friend who was adopted during the Great Depression. His blood parents, no longer able to feed him, dropped him off at a children's home. A few months later, a couple picked him out of a playground, and took him with them as they traveled cross-country. There were no papers filed or background checks. The home was glad to have one less mouth to feed.
Can you imagine anything like that happening today?
Next week, I'll tell a little story about my great grandmother--a woman I've never met yet haunts me to this very day.
How far can you trace your ancestry?